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 14 Jun 2011, 12:42 #120429 Reply To Post
Random House are the publishers of bestselling authors such as Dan Brown and John Grisham. Each month on editors from Random House 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 which are listed under May 1st for 2011
 14 Jun 2011, 12:43 #120430 Reply To Post
Random House review of GrandBambi

Dear Jack,

Congratulations – I very much enjoyed GrandBambi and could see why you have been chosen for review. Your story of family heartbreak and Jack’s personal growth is moving and potentially very powerful. I think you have all the elements for this to work well and my comments are more about bringing out and enhancing these elements – particularly to do with your hero.

My first general point is actually a question. Who is this novella for? As publishers we are often asked for a ‘one-line pitch’ for the books we create (Things like Sebastian Faulks meets Catcher in the Rye or Dan Brown for teenagers). It may seem difficult to sum up a complex novel in this way, but it’s vital for booksellers to know where to place a book and who to pitch it to. I wasn’t totally sure which genre I would sit GrandBambi in and I’d suggest you focus in on who you see as your core readers and enhance the elements that would appeal to them.

Although you use the flashback device to great effect within your story, as most of it focuses on Jack as an eighteen-year-old I feel that it’s vital his teen voice is consistently vivid and convincing. I’m not totally sure that this is the case at the moment. Would a teen boy really be ‘fixated on’ a big house and a wife and dog, for example? I wonder if some of the scenes and incidents of his teenage life could be brought to life more vividly, with you showing rather than telling your readers about his life. For example, could we see Jack with Carla, so we understand his heartbreak and behaviour more clearly? I think that the more we can understand the teenager you present the more sympathetic your readers will feel towards Jack the adult at the start and end of the story.

I love the awkward, strained relationship Jack has with Uncle Alvin and Walt, and you do the teenage bravado and his feelings of embarrassment brilliantly. But I’d also love to see Jack’s emotions about, and tense relationships with, his immediate family in more detail – especially his father. Could we see him with his whole family, including his sisters, at some point so that we understand and feel the loss of Kenny and how this has affected things more strongly than we do at the moment?

There’s quite a lot of hunting terminology in your story, which could potentially alienate some readers not familiar with it. I don’t think you have to laboriously explain all the jargon you use, but perhaps we could be presented with a more vivid depiction of what hunting is like?

It would also be nice to know and see more why Jack used to like hunting so much, and also see why his family love it, as well as getting Jack’s opinion now. I think that the more we know of Jack before Kenny died the stronger the impact of his death on the family.

I found Jack’s actual killing of GrandBambi gripping and I think there’s some scope to make this scene even more tense and dramatic. Perhaps we could see even more poignant mixed emotions from Jack, wanting to prove himself but struggling with his morals and feelings about Kenny and Carla? And perhaps there could even be a little more action, more of a hunt, with Jack chasing the creature?

Your structure and pacing are strong, and your writing carried me with you. I couldn’t quite tell from your short synopsis whether the amount I have read is the whole of your work. If so, as a short story, it works well. If you do intend for GrandBambi to be longer then I’d suggest really slowing things down and allowing us to get to know Jack better as the action develops.

As I said, I enjoyed this read and I wish you the very best of luck with this and your writing career. You’re obviously a strong writer with a real flair for conveying heightened emotions and I do hope that some of what I commented on here will be useful to you should you revisit your manuscript.

Very best,

Ruth Knowles
Random House
 14 Jun 2011, 12:45 #120431 Reply To Post
Random House Reviews

A Small Earthquake in Sheffield

This was an interesting read and I thought you portrayed the setting and people of Sheffield brilliantly. I wasn’t totally as gripped by the characters, Daisy herself particularly, and there were times when I actually felt quite alienated from her. She’s a potentially great character, and I wonder if you could allow your readers to get to know her a little more? She’s very sharp and pithy, which works well at times, but it might be nice to see a softer, more open side to her as a contrast. I also felt there was scope for us to see more of your peripheral characters and get some black humour from them, Maurice and Daisy’s housemates particularly.

The premise is a strong one so I feel you could afford to relish the telling of it a little more; showing us more detail of Daisy’s day to day life and the development of her journalistic skills to allow the tension of what sounds like a thrilling story to build up.

Congratulations and the very best of luck.

Tales from Sitka-by-the-Sea

Congratulations, this is a gripping tale that I enjoyed reading. I liked the setting, which I felt gave the novel a real interesting point of difference, but I did wonder if some of the Japanese terms, such as ‘bowing to the kamidana’ could perhaps be explained more clearly for the readers who won’t be familiar with them?

I think Meredith is a great character, but I didn’t always feel that her voice was convincingly teenage throughout. I’d also love to have been able to get to know her better. Do you intend your novel to be aimed at adults or teenagers – or both? If you’re writing for young adults it would be great for your readers to understand her actions, thoughts and feelings more clearly, especially when it comes to things like having a fake fiancé – does she want a real one? If you want your focus to be on adult readers then I’d suggest that there’s scope to up the tension running through the book even more.
Meredith tells us a lot of things about herself and Little Nara all in one go as the novel opens. I wonder if it might work better to weave these details in more subtly throughout the story, showing us rather than telling us about them?
I do think you have all the elements here for a great novel – good luck!

Wearing the Cape

I read this for a mini review a few months ago and enjoyed it then. This is still very much the case and I think it has the potential to be a very strong novel. I’d just like to repeat here that I think your chapter-opener device works really well and enhances your story brilliantly.

I still think you could afford to really slow the action in the opening section down so that the explosion, when it happens, is even more of a shock for your readers. We could see how Hope’s day actually starts, see her talking to her mum etc rather than just hearing about it so that we have a sense of her life before she changes over. The breakthrough scene is great, very tense and immediate, and potentially very powerful, but again I think you could afford to slow things down her. More on how Hope feels about what’s happening to her would work well, I think. And though you obviously don’t want to get bogged down in her angst at the expense of action, a few hints about what happened to Stacy earlier than we hear about it at the moment could work well.

The plot sounds like it develops really well and I love the twist about her father. I did wonder if you might be interested to read Hero by Perry Moore, another strong YA superhero tale.

Congratulations on a great read.
 14 Jun 2011, 14:31 #120453 Reply To Post
Thanks Ruth for your professional opinion of my submission. Your comment - "If you do intend for GrandBambi to be longer then I’d suggest really slowing things down and allowing us to get to know Jack better as the action develops." - is particularly apt. I am in fact working on expanding the tale into a full-length novel.

Thanks too to Ted and all the reviewers of GrandBambi for creating this unique opportunity.

Best, Jack

my website
 14 Jun 2011, 19:10 #120480 Reply To Post
Small Earthquake has already been mini-critiqued so it came as a nice suprise to see that Ruth had looked at it. Many thanks to Ruth for providing positive and useful feedback.
"Tread softly - some people have bunions"
 18 Jun 2011, 13:44 #120909 Reply To Post
Many thanks to you both, and we will pass on the feedback, Ted
 20 Jun 2011, 22:03 #121085 Reply To Post
Please thank Random House for their reviews and comments!
Book News
 01 Jul 2011, 15:34 #122166 Reply To Post
Quote: mgharmon, Monday, 20 Jun 2011 22:03
Please thank Random House for their reviews and comments!

Thank you, we will.

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