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ProfessionalCritique
 16 May 2012, 12:32 #150176 Reply To Post
NEW - Random House 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
 16 May 2012, 12:33 #150177 Reply To Post
A KILL IN THE MORNING – Graeme Shimmin

What a fantastic opening few lines! I was hooked immediately. Your use of language to build tension and suggest impending violence is very effective – the sun stabbing through the clouds and the herons struggling to take flight both hint at a world out of kilter. The realisation from the radio announcement that it is 1955 and Hitler is not only still alive but in power packs a hefty punch – I was so intrigued to read on and find out how events were going to unfold.

Your menacing opening explodes into brutal violence with the scene where the Pig is murdered – you handle this switch in pace brilliantly. It is short, sharp and extremely visceral – your narrator is chillingly calm and controlled, the only hint of vulnerability glimpsed when we see him vomit twice after the kill.

Kitty is a much more emotional character and the reader feels enormous empathy for her straight away. The gory, horrifying spectacle of the hawk killing the mouse and its parallels with her own life is very powerful - she is truly in constant danger from predators. Her fragility is palpable and very credible.

I found myself wanting to know more about the setting – what happened in this twisted version of the Second World War? You explain in the longer synopsis, but I don’t think it is clear enough if you come to the text blind. You don’t want to clog up the action with reams of exposition, but I did find not knowing a bit distracting. I have only read the first few chapters, and I’m sure you do explain and flesh-out events prior to the action in the book taking place later on, but I would suggest giving your reader more information a bit earlier.

Similarly, the narrator’s motivation and background are very shady. Intriguingly shady, but it is difficult for the reader to form an emotional attachment to him, when we know nothing about him, not even his name! Again, from reading the synopsis, things become clear, but your reader will need a little more help and information from you in this beginning section.

Best of luck with your writing – you are clearly very talented.

Lauren, Random House









ProfessionalCritique
 16 May 2012, 12:33 #150178 Reply To Post
LOST FOR WORDS – Henrietta McKervey

I very much enjoyed this opening material – you have an assured, deft writing style and I’m sure you have handled the twin narrative comfortably. I would have liked to read a section set in the past, but can see from your longer synopsis that Sarah’s mission to discover the truth about her parentage will have many satisfying twists and turns – and I very much like that the reader is being given more information than Sarah herself, staying a few steps ahead of her.

There is a great juxtaposition between the double whammy tragedy of Sarah finding out that the woman she thought was her mum in fact is not, and her husband ending the marriage, and the camp, arch, terribly dramatic encounter in the café with Nigel Hammond. He provides welcome light relief – for example when she has her meltdown and crying fit while on the phone to him and he rather crossly enquires whether she is “having some kind of seizure”. He is a great character, I hope there are lots more scenes with him! And is there any hint of a romance developing between them? Sarah could do with some good fortune!

She is less flamboyant and larger-than-life than Nigel, but I really found myself empathising with Sarah. She displays a stoical, calm reaction to the two major pieces of news she receives that is heartbreaking in its quietness; the line “The words in my head – fear, betrayal, confusion – were no more than useless bleats, dying gasps from the bottom of a well. I said nothing.” is very powerful. I do wonder, though, if she is a little self-contained at times (the meltdown notwithstanding!). She expressed bewilderment and surprise when a dying Ruth tells her that she isn’t her mother – but can we also see her getting angry at the lies she has been told her whole life?

Best of luck with your writing – this is great stuff.

Lauren, Random House











ProfessionalCritique
 16 May 2012, 12:34 #150179 Reply To Post
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

This is such a dramatic opening to your story – outside the house we have the violence of the political uprising, a huge number of people causing chaos, and inside we have the personal human tragedy of just two people, forced to go through the violence of a stillbirth. Really powerful stuff. You convey Bristol under siege brilliantly – plenty of fire and screaming and tension.

Bridging the two situations we have Richard, staring from the window – whose anger at the antics of the mob surpasses any emotion he feels that his newborn son is dead and his wife Anne is in agony. This should make him an unsympathetic character, but I did feel sympathy for this principled, ramrod-straight, authoritarian man, who throws himself into practical matters to keep the horror of the still birth and his own father’s cruel treatment of him at bay.
From reading your longer synopsis I can see that this book has plenty of action and intrigue – I’m sure you handle all of this assuredly. Anne doesn’t seem to feature much, which seems a shame – the reader feels very emotionally invested in her after witnessing the heartbreak of the stillbirth, and she does provide a good ‘human’ counterpoint to all the political machinations and violence. It looks like Elen is developed as a strong female character instead? Good to see a woman really getting stuck into and influencing the action!

Best of luck with your writing – I was impressed with the story so far!

Lauren, Random House












ProfessionalCritique
 16 May 2012, 12:35 #150180 Reply To Post
NOT RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN – Celia Micklefield

Well, your first line made me laugh out loud! Definitely one of the more unusual openers to a book I can think of! And I was definitely smiling at the end of your short story – it finishes on such a positive note, with Julia embracing the possibility that a man finds her attractive, and acting impulsively and emotionally.

As a character, she feels so very brow-beaten and, as she herself articulates, like she’s living her life on “autopilot”. What is particularly sad is that she doesn’t seem to harbour any anger or particular resentment about this – it’s as if she’s given up, has no self-worth. As a study of a middle-aged woman confined to the shadows, or, to use your theatre setting, the wings, you have done an excellent job. I really rooted for Julia – and that’s an impressive thing for you to achieve that level of emotional investment in a character in a short story, with no room for development through extended action.

I do wonder whether Julia is a little quick to assume that the deliveries of flowers are from Steve – especially when, during her encounter with Barry and his mother, Barry specifically mentions Bali Ha’i. Wouldn’t she have a glimmer of recognition that the notes with the flowers are all lyrics from the show tune, and could therefore be from him? I did find it a little unlikely that she doesn’t suspect that they could be from Barry!

I thoroughly enjoyed your story – your evocation of the hectic, whirlwind theatre crowd and the desolate, bleak Norfolk promenade that perfectly mirrors Julia’s bleak, rundown life is very affecting. I am so pleased that things are potentially looking-up for her at the end!

Best of luck with your writing.

Lauren, Random House
PaulE
 18 May 2012, 09:07 #150314 Reply To Post
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Wednesday, 16 May 2012 12:34
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

This is such a dramatic opening to your story – outside the house we have the violence of the political uprising, a huge number of people causing chaos, and inside we have the personal human tragedy of just two people, forced to go through the violence of a stillbirth. Really powerful stuff. You convey Bristol under siege brilliantly – plenty of fire and screaming and tension.

Bridging the two situations we have Richard, staring from the window – whose anger at the antics of the mob surpasses any emotion he feels that his newborn son is dead and his wife Anne is in agony. This should make him an unsympathetic character, but I did feel sympathy for this principled, ramrod-straight, authoritarian man, who throws himself into practical matters to keep the horror of the still birth and his own father’s cruel treatment of him at bay.
From reading your longer synopsis I can see that this book has plenty of action and intrigue – I’m sure you handle all of this assuredly. Anne doesn’t seem to feature much, which seems a shame – the reader feels very emotionally invested in her after witnessing the heartbreak of the stillbirth, and she does provide a good ‘human’ counterpoint to all the political machinations and violence. It looks like Elen is developed as a strong female character instead? Good to see a woman really getting stuck into and influencing the action!

Best of luck with your writing – I was impressed with the story so far!

Lauren, Random House



Thank you, Lauren, for your very encouraging comments.

The few people who have read the first draft of the book do find Elen to be the strongest character, and her relationship with Tom to be the most engaging.

Anne does though develop as a character and remains pivotal to the plot, though her strength and influence on events is more subtle and complex, and difficult to convey in a synopsis. Then again. the synopsis probably needs more work.

Thanks again,

Paul
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