The free website to help new writers to develop, and to help talented writers get noticed and published Books
   
NEW - Random House, Orion & Pan Macmillian Reviews << Return To Main Site

 Welcome to the YouWriteOn Forum

**News Random House & Orion Editors to continue free reviews of YouWriteOn Top Ten Writer  - publishers of many of the world's bestselling authors 

YouWriteOn Authors'  Congratulations to our many authors achieving sales and signings successes through  Waterstones, Amazon and others! 

YouWriteOn Message Board > The YouWriteOn Forum > The Professional Critiques Forum Help Search Recent Posts
NEW - Random House, Orion & Pan Macmillian Reviews
Page 1 Last : 2 > Start New Topic Reply To Topic
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 20:57 #151631 Reply To Post
NEW - Random House, Orion & Pan Macmillian Reviews


Random House publish authors such as Dan Brown and Terry Pratchett. Pan Macmillian are also now providing critiques for youwriteon authors too. Pan Macmillian publish authors such as Emma Donoghue and Carol Ann Duffy. Orion are part of the Hatchette publishing group, whose authors include Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer and Ian Rankin.


Each month on YouWriteOn.com editors either from Random House, Pan Macmillian and Orion, provide an indepth critique of up to three highly rated YouWriteOn Top Ten novel openings, and mini-reviews of the rest of the top ten stories. This aims to assist all authors in their story development by giving feedback as to what editors are looking for in novel submitted to them.


Click here to view the story extract links for the stories reviewed below
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 21:00 #151632 Reply To Post
Deceived Random House Review

Congratulations on being the top rated novel on YouWriteOn for April! I very much enjoyed the opening chapters of Deceived, which were a wonderfully tense and exciting read that left me desperately hoping that Anya would survive and escape her husband.

Plot

You open your story with a nicely disquieting scene in which Jed arrives at Anya's temporary seaside refuge. Although at this stage we don't know what has led Anya to flee from her husband, it's very clear from the start, even when he is attempting to charm the landlady, that this is a man who is not to be trusted. There were a few lines that confused me on my first read – how could Jed 'see' the sponge mixture the landlady had just put in the oven? – but it soon becomes clear that there is something very unusual about this estranged couple. The hints about what is really going on, the mention of the gift, Anya and Jed's visions, the 'society', the mysterious brooch, etc are kept to a level that intrigues and excites us, whilst not giving too much away or frustrating readers.

I thought you did a very good job of building the tension as you cut from Jed in the bedroom, his eyes fixed on Anya and Willow, and the scenes on the beach as Willow played happily, unaware of her father's arrival. When Anya realised that Jed had found them, but seemed to be heading back to the flat regardless, I had my heart in my mouth as I read on, convinced she was going to end up at the flat and was relieved that they were then able to escape in the car, although it soon became clear that they were not going to escape him entirely. Your extract ended with a particularly powerful cliff-hanger, first the revelation that Anya was (I assume at least) attempting suicide as the only way to escape Jed, and then the second, yet more chilling revelation, that despite the pills, she still hadn't escaped him.

For the purposes of creating more tension, I wonder whether it might be worth removing the line in which we discover that Anya has left Willow at 'St Madeline's Home for Children'? If the reader has no idea where Willow has been left – is it with family, or friends, or someone connected to the mysterious 'society'? - this would undoubtedly encourage them to sympathise further with poor, abandoned Willow and wonder just where Anya might have been forced to leave her beloved daughter.

Anya seems to attempt to trick Jed into thinking she had gone elsewhere: 'if she kept her thoughts open too long he would suspect a trick'. Is this so she can draw him away from where she has left Willow? If it's to try and trick him into thinking she has gone north when she's actually going elsewhere, it doesn't seem to work very well as he catches up with her that same night.

Quality of writing

Your writing is generally very good, with some particularly vivid descriptions; I loved the landlady's resistance melting 'like lard in the frying pan' and the wallpaper in Anya's flat peeling 'like a jaded bloom' as it brought a touch of faded beauty to what was undoubtedly a tatty, neglected room. Your description of Anya's dress, 'which merged like camouflage on the beach' went beyond a mere physical description to remind readers that this was a woman who was always on the run, always attempting to hide herself and her daughter.

Other descriptive lines may benefit from a little further attention, such as 'Cooking fat clung to her as if she'd just bathed in it'. I couldn't quite picture this – what did it cling to? Her hands? Her face? As we discover she has been making cakes presumably it might make more sense to say she was covered in flour and/or sugar? Sometimes it's just a matter of looking at your choice of individual adjectives: when Jed discovers that Anya and Willow have vanished for example, you write that he 'bounded out of the room' but this seems far too positive and cheerful a movement. I would normally think of dogs bounding across parks, rather than dangerous men hunting down their estranged wives and child.

Characterisation

Anya is the character I felt we got to know the most about, and I think you did a very good of emphasising the strain she was under whilst also showing us the resilience that she has had to develop as a result of Jed's pursuit of her. Despite clearly being frightened for her life, she comes across as a strong woman who has been preparing for this day for most of her life.

Jed is made more frightening by the fact we know relatively little about him – the passing reference to 'the effect he had on the opposite sex' gives us a possible insight into how his relationship with Anya came about, but by keeping his back story to the minimum in these first few pages, you force the reader to concentrate primarily on the threat he holds for Anya in the present day. Although I appreciate that the final scene in this extract may be cut off part-way through it didn't seem that he was surprised that Willow was not in the car with Anya – had he already realised that Anya was alone? Or is it just that he hasn't noticed yet? I wasn't sure whether in the line 'They would both know that pain soon and his suffering would ease', both referred to Anya and Willow or Jed and Anya.

Willow plays a relatively minor role in these first few pages although I think it will be clear to everyone that any child of 'magical' parents who bemoans their own lack of talents will rapidly go on to develop those self same powers!

Audience

You classify this as for an Adult/YA audience, which seemed right to me although I would say that children generally enjoy reading about characters who are slightly older than them, so it might be that Willow is a little too young to appeal to the thirteen-fifteen year olds, who I’d have thought would have made up the majority of your readers. I would also say, based on just these first few chapters that it’s likely to appeal more strongly to a female readership so if you did come to submit it to an agent, you might want to make that clear from the start.

Conclusion

This is a very strong opening; a tense, exciting read it introduces us quickly and effectively to your central characters and introduces us to a number of mysteries about which readers will undoubtedly be very eager to read on and find out the truth. Your writing is strong but remember that every word counts so do think very carefully about your choice of words, particularly in the early stages when you are trying to establish a character for us.

Alison, Random House
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 14 Jun 2012, 21:00
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 21:01 #151633 Reply To Post
Random House Mini-Reviews


Heating the House

Congratulations on being one of the top rated stories this month and I do hope that the house fire you yourself experienced was nothing like as traumatic as the one in this story!

It is clear from the very beginning of your story that something bad will happen as a result of the couple’s purchase of the stove, so the challenge for you as a writer is to maintain a level of suspense and you perform a clever double bluff by switching the focus of your story part way through so the focus is not on the stove, but on the mystery of Rory's secret life. I also liked how the stove was ultimately responsible not for the destruction of something special to Izzy, which readers may have assumed from her earlier fears, but for the death of the man who championed it.

I would have liked to have seen a little more of Rory's bullying attitudes first hand as I think this would have been stronger than us learning about it from Polly's complaints about him, especially as this is the first we learn that Izzy and Rory are not as happy as they were when they bought the stove together. Showing, rather than telling, is the key here.

I did have some reservations over the ending of your story which might be worth you thinking about if you are planning to re-draft it any point. I couldn't believe that the fire brigade or the police would not have checked the entire property very thoroughly for anyone who had been trapped by the fire before they let anyone walk around, particularly as it was a residential property so was likely to have had someone in it at the time of the fire. I was also a little unclear as to how you wanted readers to feel at the end of the story. When Izzy tells her sons that they're 'going home' it sounds as if it's meant to be a positive ending to their story – now they are going somewhere they will be safe and happy – but surely the revelation of her husband's death, even if he had been cheating on her for years, would still leave Izzy devastated, if only for her sons, who have now lost their father?

Sea-Bright


Congratulations on being one of the top rated stories this month on YouWriteOn. I am not sure whether your story comes from personal experience – I wondered whether it might have been intended as a piece of life writing, rather than as a piece of fiction – but the emotions behind it are very vividly and strongly expressed, even if it is fictional.

I thought you did a very good job of conveying how easily our lives can change, and how difficult it can be to manage not only your own feelings, but those around you. You didn't shy away from showing us how even though the narrator clearly adores her daughter, there are so many challenges to face as a result of her daughter's disabilities; even loving parents can sometimes be left exhausted and angry.

I am not generally a fan of exclamation marks in creative writing, unless used in dialogue, but I appreciate this is a personal reaction and so I would just suggest trying to keep these to a minimum if possible. I would also say to be careful of over using certain phrases, such as 'Let me tell you', do try and keep an eye out for phrases that you know you are particularly fond of using.


The Very Long Walk of Gerald Ferguson: Part Two


Congratulations on being one of the top rated stories this month for your second instalment in your series. I haven't read part one, but I found this episode to be a entertaining, idiosyncratic read. There was plenty of humour to be found in Gerald's encounter with the amorous Beryl and I was quickly sympathising with poor Gerald as he struggled to be heard above Beryl's monologues. It might be interesting for you to read the recently published The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, as this also centres around an older man taking on an unlikely walk across Britain.

Do keep an eye on grammar and punctuation in future instalments – there were a few instances of 'your' instead of 'you're' and some misplaced commas – and try not to let your characterisation be lost in favour of humour. The odd pairing of Beryl and Gerald made for some very funny scenes but as someone who hadn't read part one, I wanted to know much more about Gerald himself, about why he was on this mission and what his friends and family made of his decision. I was surprised, for example, that he didn't seem to make any attempt to call his wife and let her know where he was. I know you don't want to keep repeating yourself for those who have read previous instalments but as Beryl doesn't know anything of Gerald's quest, I'm sure she could have asked him a few questions (even if she didn't listen to the answers!) about what he was doing and why.

Alison, Random House
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 14 Jun 2012, 21:02
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 21:07 #151634 Reply To Post
Pan Macmillian Reviews

Congratulations on being selected for a professional critique by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading your early pages of WAKING THE DRAGON. However, I think the material so far still needs a fair amount of reworking and 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, and what to pay attention to as the novel progresses. I will broadly discuss the main elements of your narrative, as well as refer to a few specific line references to illustrate some of my points.

Structure:
Structure is the backbone of your narrative. If the skeleton of your novel is sound in structure, this will help create pace and narrative flow. These early pages take a simple, linear form in terms of structure. And while this suits the direction of the narrative, it’s still important to pay consideration to other elements of the structure, such as where you introduce scene breaks and end chapters. It’s important for these to conclude on an intriguing and compelling note so the reader wants to find out more and so carries on reading. You haven’t quite accomplished that, so this is an area to pay attention to when you come to rewriting.
I think that the later scenes that flashback to Kate’s recent past will add some much needed texture and variance to the narrative. And as the two strands slowly converge in time, this will help increase the pace of the narrative as all the final pieces of the picture slot into place.

Plot:
While I thought the overall plot had much dramatic potential, I didn’t feel like you’d capitalised on this in these early pages. In a novel that is essentially a historical romance, your first chapter feels particularly at odds with this. There was too much focus on the boat and the smuggling, with scant attention paid to the characterisation. While the story will of course be propelled by the plot developments, given this is a romance, the characterisation will be the main driving force in the narrative. And so the plot and the characters need to complement each other, and you haven’t quite achieved that yet.
From reading the synopsis, I was a little concerned about Roland’s initial attraction to Kate and his persistent pursuing of her, only for her to snub him for someone else and, rejected, he turns to Sofia, almost as an afterthought. When Roland dies to save her, I think the power and emotion of this scene will be lost as his love for her was always wavering. I would suggest giving real thought to this area of the narrative by keeping in mind how you want the reader to feel and respond to the drama.



Characterisation:
A lot of the dialogue and character interactions felt quite stilted and wooden, which pulled me out of the narrative in these crucial early chapters. It seems that in your focus to convey the restraint and formality of the era, you’ve failed to capture the spirit and emotions of your characters. You never get under the skin of your characters, but instead paint them superficially so that the reader is always kept at a distance.
The scene when Roland tears up thinking about his dead parents and his return visit to his childhood home that had been devastated by the London bombing has the potential to be incredibly moving and poignant yet it feels quite underwhelming, as if you don’t have the confidence to tackle the emotion of this scene head on. It is moments like this that can really open Roland up to the reader and help them engage and empathise with him, but instead you skim the surface, keeping the reader at arm’s length.
You tend to rely on rather clichéd ‘English’ exclamations for Roland, such as ‘bloody hell’ and ‘flipping heck’. If over-used, you risk portraying Roland as more of a caricature than a believable protagonist. And the way you describe females feels overly romanticised and has echoes of Mills and Boon books! Again, try to avoid falling back on stereotypes when describing characters. Reveal what is unique and different about them, not just that they have ‘cascading hair’ or an ‘enchanting heart-shaped face’ (and enchanting is used again to describe Kate in the synopsis) or a narrow waist.
I get the feeling from the first appearance of Kate and reading your synopsis that her storyline might be stronger in terms of characterisation. The reader needs to be alongside Kate for her entire journey and invested in her story. The fact that Kate never becomes a love interest for Roland means the narrative link between them in weakened, so it’s important that Kate’s strand still has relevance and meaning in relation to the rest of the novel.

Setting:
While setting is the backdrop for any story, it can be a character in its own right and can help build atmosphere and even influence the tone of the narrative. And while there are some nice descriptions in these early pages, again I felt like you took the easy, predictable route in your portrayal of the surroundings. In historical fiction setting is especially crucial. You need to conjure up this vanished era in a way that is vivid and immediate, immersing the reader in your characters’ fictional worlds.

Genre/Market:
As I’ve discussed previously, I felt like your opening chapter was at odds with the tone of the rest of the pages. It lacked atmosphere, intrigue and a strong protagonist. You seemed a little unsure of how to steer the narrative as the novel progressed. My biggest piece of advice to learning the craft of writing is to be a voracious reader. You need to read widely and extensively in the area in which you wish to write, to get a sense of what’s selling in this market and what works and doesn’t work in a novel. It is absolutely crucial that you know and understand your readership, particularly in a market that is becoming ever more competitive. By being an astute reader is the first step in becoming a good writer.

Title:
The title instantly made me think this was going to be either a fantasy novel or a martial arts action novel, with its inclusion of the word ‘Dragon’. ‘Historical romance’ didn’t spring to mind! Of course the packaging of a book can help signify to a potential reader what type of book this is, but the title plays an important part in that.

Line notes:
‘Roland stood next to his boss, Tony Chambers … Coxswain at the wheel, Third officer Wang on his left, he eyed his surroundings.’ Who eyed his surroundings? You mention four characters in two sentences so the ‘he’ is unclear. Be careful with syntax and sentence structure that meaning doesn’t become vague and ambiguous.
In response to Higgin’s claim that: ‘The Japs locked me up in an internment camp,’ Roland replies: ‘My boss was there too. Tony Chambers. Perhaps your remember him?’ Surely there was more than one internment camp in Hong Kong? Seems like an odd comment, even if Roland is trying to catch him out. Perhaps try something else here?
‘I look after Mr Leung’s business interests there.’ – Seems like quite a dull place to end the scene here. This adds very little and certainly won’t compel the reader to turn the page. You need to give serious consideration to how you structure your novel.
‘Fat chance of him discovering what that “something” was though’ – quite a clunky line and one that’s at odds with the style and tone of the rest of the prose.

Conclusion:
I hope these notes have been helpful to you. As I have already said, I think the material so far has potential but needs some serious revision. Particular attention needs to be paid to structure and characterisation. With some polishing and developing as you go along, I’m sure you will be able to make this leap off the page. I wish you the best of luck in making that happen and hope you continue to enjoy writing.

Best wishes
Natalie Braine
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 21:09 #151635 Reply To Post
Pan Macmillian Mini-Reviews

Professional mini critique for Boomerang by Willow55

Congratulations on being well-rated by your peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the opening pages of your novel. The split narrative works well as the storylines are so different and the reader is left to question what happened in those two intervening years for Alec to end up where he is. But from reading the synopsis, I’m concerned that there isn’t enough drama to drive the narrative forward. The plot is quite simple and it seems that there are no sub-plots to give texture to and variance to your story. So the novel doesn’t feel drawn-out, you might want to consider developing the plot so it is more complex and involving.

The tone is quite conversational and flippant, and while this contrasts well with the dark plot, it does at times dissipate any sense of tension or malice as Alec is so chatty and quick to make sarcastic comments. Remember that less is more if you want to strike the right pitch in terms of tone. I also felt that Alec was portrayed as a little too heartless and uncaring, especially when he talks of his sister’s death with the rather offhand comment: ‘Meningitis. Shit happens – particularly with our bunch.’ I understand that you’re trying to convey how Alec has had to harden himself towards others as a way to cope, but you need to ensure that he doesn’t seem entirely dislikeable. We need to see flashes of humanity and compassion if the reader is to emotionally engage with him as the protagonist and feel compelled to keep reading his story. I’m sure this will come out more as we see his relationship develop with Kelly but I think you need to get under his skin much earlier to keep the reader invested.

The book is self-referential at times with lines such as ‘If I was reading about this…’. This is quite a risky literary device as it can pull the reader out of the narrative by actually reminding them they’re reading a piece of fiction. This is another area that you might want to look at when you come to rewriting this draft.


Professional mini critique for The Price of Freedom by PaulE


Congratulations on being well-rated by your peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the early pages of your novel. While you ably set the scene and dropped the reader right into the middle of the drama, I didn’t find these opening chapters particularly compelling and this is due to the characterisation of Richard. A protagonist - particularly in historical adventure fiction - needs to be strong, charismatic and unforgettable. Richard wasn’t any of these things and consequently I wasn’t drawn into the narrative or fully immersed in his world. You need to work on getting under his skin as a character. Try to avoid making him a carbon copy of other adventure heroes. Concentrate on revealing what is unique about him and in this way you will create a character a reader will not only engage with but also never forget. It’s important to remember that even in narratives that are so focused on drama and action that it is the characters that carry the weight of the story, and if they are not strong in their portrayal, your narrative will suffer.

In comparison, Anne was a much more fully realised character. You seemed to capture her tone and voice straight away. And by introducing more main characters and showing the drama from their perspectives will help open up the narrative and give it texture and depth an also ensure the reader doesn’t tire of one strand.

A small query, but would words like ‘gynaecological’ have been used in 1831? I may be wrong but this feels like quite modern terminology. And another small point – your synopsis was much too long. If you wish to submit your material to a literary agent, they usually request the first three chapters and a two-page synopsis. So you will need to work on condensing this down.

Professional mini critique for The Sandman and Mrs Carter by Celia Micklefield

Congratulations on being well-rated by your peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the opening pages of your novel. However, I did have reservations about the first chapter. You seem to focus too much on being ambiguous and intriguing but in fact you are so ambiguous that a lot of the meaning becomes lost, so much so that it seems like you are just layering words on top of words. Try not to lose the essence of what the story is about. And remember the execution is just as important as what you are saying.

I liked how you structured the narrative from different viewpoints, offering alternate angles on the main story, and gradually drip-feeding pieces of information that will keep the reader guessing as to what is really going on.

My biggest piece of advice is to not get too caught up in the overall mystery. This is clearly a very character-led novel and revelations about the key figures and showing small truths that will speak to the reader will be just as compelling as the development of the mystery arc of the narrative.

Professional mini critique for Love on Location by Rosie Telford

Congratulations on being well-rated by your peers at YouWriteOn. While I enjoyed reading the early pages of your novel, I did find it quite predictable and a little clichéd in parts. As I’m sure you’re aware, ‘chick-lit’ is a very competitive area of the market because not only is it saturated in terms of the number of books in that genre that are available, but because the reading public are buying less of these books. So for your novel to be commercially viable, it needs to offer something different from what else is out there. In short it needs to be memorable, involving, with the ability to move the reader and also make them laugh out loud. And at present, your novel doesn’t achieve any of those things. It feels too formulaic and relies on stereotypes, when it needs to feel fresh and original.

For me the humour misfired a lot of the time. It felt very farcical and slapstick and was devoid of the sparkling wit that can really elevate a novel. You tend to opt for the very obvious route in each scenario, rather than exploring what could be unique and inventive. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to read as widely as possible in this genre and to read from the point of view of a writer, analysing what works and what doesn’t, and how the author achieves this. After all, the first step in becoming a good writer is being a good reader.



ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 21:11 #151636 Reply To Post
Pan Macmillian Critique

Congratulations on being selected for a professional critique by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading your early pages of LOST FOR WORDS 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 develop the existing chapters, and what to pay attention to as the novel progresses. I will broadly discuss the main elements of your narrative, as well as refer to a few specific line references to illustrate some of my points.

Structure:

Structure is the backbone of your narrative. If the skeleton of your novel is sound in structure, this will help create pace and narrative flow. The overall structure of a split narrative novel is a solid literary device in that it provides texture and variance, ensuring the reader never tires of one storyline before it switches to another, and making them want to keep turning the pages as new pieces of the puzzle slot into place. But the actual structure of these early pages does need some development. When you include the flashback of Sarah visiting her mother, it feels a little clunky as it’s told in present tense even though it’s already happened. I think you either need to have this in past tense (e.g. ‘She had laid quite still’) or restructure the opening pages so both revelations are played out in present tense for the reader to experience as Sarah does. I think this would be stronger, rather than reporting this incredibly moving and dramatic scene. So whether you decide to have her mother or husband’s revelation first, you can hint in your narrative that Sarah’s world is going to be shattered even more in enigmatic references. This will involve a small amount of rejigging, having the café scene where Sarah takes off both rings after the hospital scene, and Clifford’s scene might have to come after rather than before the scene with her mother.

While it’s great to be experimental with structure and not have it completely linear, this mustn’t be done at the expense of the natural flow of the story, otherwise it will feel like your treading over old ground as the reader already knows what will happen, so the emotional and dramatic impact is lost.

Plot:

I thought the opening of your first chapter was incredibly strong. You manage to intrigue, set the scene and really align the reader to the character. Not many writers manage to achieve this from the get-go, so I was really impressed by the confidence of the first few pages.

While I liked the brevity of the scenes where Sarah learns the truth about her husband and mother, I did feel that you could have developed the emotion of each scene more. Her mother confesses in almost one breath, with no dramatic build-up or sense of how this is very difficult for her to say. Try not to rush over key scenes like this otherwise it will seem to the reader that you don’t have the confidence to tackle these emotional interactions head on. The scene with Clifford is actually entirely reported (the reader doesn’t witness him saying these words) rather than playing it out for the reader to experience firsthand. I really think you lose something here, as it all feels rather truncated and like it’s happening on fast-forward. What is actually going through Sarah’s mind at this time? She just seems rather dumbstruck and numb, so you need to expose her thoughts for the reader to feel like they are aligned with her at this crucial juncture in the narrative. Don’t skim over key scenes. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is to show not tell your reader what is happening. By reporting the drama, you keep the reader at a distance, when you need to pull them in and immerse them in Sarah’s world.

Critique continues next post
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Jun 2012, 21:11 #151637 Reply To Post


Characterisation:

Characters usually fall into one of three brackets: an ordinary character in an extraordinary situation; an extraordinary character in an ordinary situation (often able to mine humour from their surroundings and/or make thought-provoking insights); an extraordinary character in an extraordinary situation. There are of course those books that feature an ordinary character in an ordinary situation, but you rarely find these on the bestseller lists! Your protagonist Sarah seems to fall firmly in the first area. She is a seemingly normal woman who suddenly has to deal with her world falling apart around her. I particularly liked how you have her learning in one day that not only is her past founded on a lie but her imagined future is effectively no more. Sarah is suddenly unanchored and incredibly vulnerable and her plight instantly elicits the reader’s empathy and makes them want to find out more and see how she will handle the emotional fall-out of two such life-shattering revelations.

I did find Nigel’s portrayal rather superficial. It seems to rely too heavily on cliché and stereotypes of the melodramatic, ego-centric actor. From reading your synopsis, it’s clear that Sarah and Nigel don’t have a romantic connection, so it’s important for Nigel to feel inherent and essential to the narrative if he isn’t to appear like an awkward sidekick. And he needs to have more of a sub-plot of his own, rather than just his fictional alter-ego has been killed off. I like the idea that he has been playing this character for so long that reality has merged with fantasy, so that he feels more like himself playing Anthony, so much so that he’s lost his sense of who he really is. This needs to be explored more for the reader to really understand this character. And it also has potential to be quite poignant. Like Sarah, he needs to have a defined character arc, as they are both embarking on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.

The historical strand seems like it won’t be structured from just one character POV but from many as it encompasses quite a long span of time. It’s important that these characters have a strong voice that is every bit as compelling as your protagonist, Sarah’s.

Setting:

While setting is the backdrop for any story, it can be a character in its own right and can help build atmosphere and even influence the tone of the narrative. And while there are descriptions of some of Dublin’s streets, there is little description of Sarah’s house or neighbourhood. Hopefully these details will be seamlessly interwoven into the narrative as the story progresses.

I wondered why you had set the modern strand in 2006 rather than present day? If there is not an actual reason for this, I would suggest setting in present day so it will feel more current and immediate to readers.

Tone:

As I often tell aspiring writers, tone is one of the most important elements of a novel, but also one of the hardest to master. If the tone of you narrative isn’t pitched right or feels off-key, it can seriously compromise the reader’s engagement with your story. And while the overall tone struck a strong chord, it did waver uncertainly at times. You seem to veer from emotion and poignancy to sarcasm and forced jollity at times, especially in the scenes involving Nigel. You need to be sure what type of novel this is and who the intended audience is, and if you’re certain about these facets, they will help influence and guide the tone of the narrative.

Line notes:

‘I had taken both rings off and was staring at the naked hand that didn’t have the right to wear them anymore…’ I think you need to make more explicit that Sarah can’t wear her grandmother’s ring because she isn’t in fact her grandmother as I had to read this a couple of times to make sense of it. Perhaps something like ‘didn’t have the right to wear either of them anymore after today’s events when thud!...’ I’m probably being pedantic but just to avoid reader confusion.

‘… tears that crowded my eyes and elbowed each other forward like cross commuters’. You do have a tendency to over-describe and use rather elaborate similes, so that the emotion of a line becomes diluted. It would be much better to finish with ‘of not spilling the tears that crowded my eyes. I fumbled for my purse.’ Remember that in descriptive prose, less is often more.

‘… but into a third phase (a third phase)’ – is this repetition deliberate? If so the meaning is lost on me.

‘Her voice pushed the words gently towards me, offerings to appease a vengeful god’ – this actually seems like you’re describing Sarah as a vengeful god. Be careful that your descriptions fit the scene, otherwise they’ll jump out awkwardly rather than allowing the prose to flow naturally.

‘…her lips stuck drily together as if her body wanted to swallow the words, to chivvy them inside like recalcitrant children’ – another instance of you over-describing and using similes that don’t always fit with the tone of the scene. It would be much better to finish the line with ‘wanted to swallow the words’. This is much more powerful. I cannot stress enough – less is more. Otherwise you shroud the true emotion and power of a moment in unnecessary words.

‘I put her hand down, dark like over-ripe fruit’. Sarah’s mother’s hands have been described a number of times now (‘papery touch of her hands’, ‘bruised and lumpy skin was seamed by exhausted veins’). You don’t need to describe every detail. Again, less is more…

‘…feeling the distance between me and the low-level frenetic urban sprawl that boomed four floors below as surely as if I were in a tomb’. A tomb is underground, not elevated, so again this description jars and will pull the reader out of the narrative. It feels like you’re overwriting here and struggling to find an apt description to fit the tone and emotion of this scene. This is something you need to pay careful attention to when you come to rewriting.

And then the next line describes the scene as ‘like being in a car wash’ – as far removed from a tomb as it’s possible to imagine! Again, it feels like your struggling to find natural descriptions. If in doubt, it’s best to omit descriptions rather than shoehorn in ones that don’t fit with the rest of the scene.

A small point but you don’t need to include a chapter subheading if it’s the same as the one preceding it, as is the case with chapter two. The reader will be able to tell as the scene progresses that it’s the same day and still from Sarah’s POV. You only need to insert a subheading if these details change.

‘Drink is both our our hymnal and our our shroud’ – again, is the repetition deliberate? I assumed it was a typo but wasn’t sure when it occurs twice…

‘waiting for Ruth’ – has she always called her mum by her first name?

Conclusion:

I hope these notes have been helpful to you. As I have already said, I think the material so far is well-written (if a little over-written in places) and these early pages show much potential. Particular attention needs to be paid to structure, as well as paring back some of your descriptive prose so the emotion is able to shine through. With some polishing and developing as you go along, I’m sure you will be able to make this leap off the page. I wish you the best of luck in making that happen, and hope you continue to enjoy writing.

Best wishes

Natalie Braine
willow55
 15 Jun 2012, 02:57 #151652 Reply To Post
Hi Ted
Please pass on my sincere thanks to Natalie for her thoughtful review of Boomerang. It's much appreciated.
Cinnamon
 15 Jun 2012, 13:06 #151670 Reply To Post
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Thursday, 14 Jun 2012 21:00
Deceived Random House Review

Congratulations on being the top rated novel on YouWriteOn for April! I very much enjoyed the opening chapters of Deceived, which were a wonderfully tense and exciting read that left me desperately hoping that Anya would survive and escape her husband.
Alison, Random House


Ted, have you posted the wrong crit? This was already posted back in April?
.
karen milner
 15 Jun 2012, 17:16 #151679 Reply To Post
Quote: Cinnamon, Friday, 15 Jun 2012 13:06
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Thursday, 14 Jun 2012 21:00
Deceived Random House Review

Congratulations on being the top rated novel on YouWriteOn for April! I very much enjoyed the opening chapters of Deceived, which were a wonderfully tense and exciting read that left me desperately hoping that Anya would survive and escape her husband.
Alison, Random House


Ted, have you posted the wrong crit? This was already posted back in April?


No mistake, Justine. I was in the same batch as these new crits (April top ten), I just got mine a bit earlier.
Page 1 Last : 2 > Add To My Topic Watch List Start New Topic Reply To Topic
Server Time: 14 December 2017, 02:30

Powered by Zarr Forums

-

 

Adverts provided by Google and not endorsed by YouWriteOn.com.