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ProfessionalCritique
 27 Sep 2011, 16:46 #130921 Reply To Post
NEW - Random House Reviews

NEW - Random House Reviews - August 1st 2011 stories

Random House are the publishers of bestselling authors such as Dan Brown and John Grisham. Each month on YouWriteOn.com 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 August 1st for 2011
ProfessionalCritique
 27 Sep 2011, 16:47 #130922 Reply To Post
Random House Editor Critique - The Family Itch

Dear Jeremy,

Congratulations on being chosen for review. The Family Itch is a fun, quirky concept (and a nice title!) with lots going for it and I enjoyed meeting your characters. It’s obviously hard for me to go into too much depth having only read the first few chapters but I hope that my notes below are useful to you as you revisit the manuscript.

The premise
As I say this is fun – with the wacky, innovativeness that boys of this age group will find engaging. At the moment, however, I’m not completely sure I get why Dylan thinks that growing potatoes on himself will make him so much money. People don’t pay much for potatoes, do they? Is it because he thinks it will get him some attention for being so unusual? I think we could do with being let into Dylan’s thought-process over this, see his logic. Similarly why does Dylan want to attempt this in the first place? Does he want the money for his family or to be different from them? Again, letting us into his head may help clarify this for readers.
Just a minor suggestion also, it’s worth not setting too many scenes in school with books like this that could be sold to the US and translation markets as obviously the school system differs so much from ours.

Dylan

As I mention above I think there’s scope for you to allow your readers the chance to get to know your hero in more depth. Without slowing down the pace it would be nice to know how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking so that we can relate to him – or not.

As he stands I’m not totally sure your readers will relate to him. He’s possibly almost a bit too much on the gross side at the moment so that I couldn’t really understand why his friends liked him. I think we could do with seeing the warmth of his personality, the way he interacts with his friends and his sense of humour more to even this out.

The family

I wonder if it would work to have Dylan at odds with his family rather than misguidedly thinking that they are wonderful? It could bring a nice Roald Dahl feel to your work, which would fit well with your quirky premise and voice. Perhaps if you did this it would show Dylan’s motivation for wanting to make money more clearly, wanting to be different to his horrible relations? And it might make Aunt Fleur’s singling out of him clearer too.

Another option might be to have the family – or maybe just one of them – getting involved with Dylan’s scheme too? It could be nice to show some of the family working together.

Narrative
At the moment you switch between perspectives in your writing. In keeping with the comments I’ve made, I wonder if you should quite clearly stick with Dylan’s point of view to make his voice very strong for the reader. Perhaps you could even consider making it first person so we can really get into Dylan’s head?

There are a few places where I feel you could slow the pace a little and allow us to see what’s going on and hear the dialogue rather than just hear about it. There are such funny incidents here I think you should make the most of them!
I’m not sure that Dylan being referred to in the narrative as Spud quite works if you keep it in the third person. I do think it works brilliantly as a nickname, but perhaps he should stay as Dylan for narrative purposes?

Linda and Andrew
I think there’s real scope to make much more of these characters, to see the little gang interacting more, and to develop each of their characters so they are more distinctive. Having Linda, particularly as a stronger character may be a good thing as you might find you will pick up some girl readers this way.

I think it would be nice to make them each more individual than they are at the moment. For example, surely they wouldn’t all be stupid? Wouldn’t Andrew know what PTO means?(There might be scope to do something else nice with this misunderstanding perhaps, where Dylan happens to have his thumb over it so misses it instead?)

There are some potentially very funny scenes involving Dylan and his friends, like the cow-pat scene and I think these would be even stronger if we were more attached to the little group, and knew and liked them better.

Aunty Fleur
This is a strong idea and the crossed wires it brings as a sub-plot work well. I almost think you could do even more with it, perhaps opening with Dylan getting the letter?
I did just have a technical question, though: if the letter Dylan receives is an official one, surely it would go to his parents?

Overall, I think The Family Itch has the potential to work well for this boy area of the children’s market and I wish you the very best of luck with it. As you can see most of my suggestions are to do with bringing out and developing the things you already have in your story so I do hope they have been of use to you.

Very best,
Ruth
Random House Children’s Books
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 27 Sep 2011, 16:48
ProfessionalCritique
 27 Sep 2011, 16:49 #130923 Reply To Post
PEABODY FLINT by Caz Abrahams

Peabody’s is an assured, quirky and endearing voice, and I enjoyed the pages I read of your novel. The opening is strong, although I was actually unsure about Peabody’s sex for quite some time. I think you could allow your readers more insight into his character earlier on so that this is clear and we can begin to identify with him from the outset. The relationship between Peabody and Summer is a nice one, and their different personalities but similar past makes for an interesting dynamic. As above, though, I do think you could allow us to get to know them both a little better than we do at the moment without slowing the pace of things.

The intriguing nature of Peabody’s ability works well at hooking readers into the mystery. Obviously having only read a few sample chapters I realise this still has to develop but I would say that the logic of his powers and the reason he thinks he may be remotely involved in the events around town seem a little hazy at the moment. I wonder if perhaps things move too fast. You have such a nice tone to your writing and some great characters to work with I think you could afford to slow things down and let your readers enjoy them.


THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE by Orsen

I love the black comedy that runs throughout the sample I read. We’re obviously plunged straight into the action and I don’t want to suggest you change this or slow the pace but I really feel like we need to empathise with, and understand Mark more than we do at the moment. It’s great to flash through bits of his life as we do, but I feel that in places he comes across as quite arrogant and cold and for readers to buy into his story from the outset I think he needs to be slightly more appealing. Perhaps we could see him with his family, his children, so that we truly appreciate what it is he’s about to lose?

This is a good, original premise, though, and you obviously have some strong characters lined up to appear in your novel. I wondered if you had considered alternating perspectives between Mark, Scott and Jason so that we’re not solely focused on Mark? It might make for a more layered novel, possibly?

The very best of luck with this, it sounds very interesting.


PIGS MIGHT FLY by Jonathan Skinner

I enjoyed this read very much, your writing is sparky and I found Geoffrey to be a great mix – flawed but intriguing. The opening scene with him reading the weather is simultaneously tragic and laugh-out-loud funny, and I think you’ve handled it really well. With him being so strong, I felt that some of your other characters didn’t feel quite as 3D in comparison. I wonder if you could make more of Ralph and Dee in these opening scenes to add some real depth and diversity?

Your synopsis sounds very interesting, though as it reads at the moment, the meeting between Cara and Geoffrey seems a little too random and convenient given how important it goes on to be. How does she know he’s appearing in the pizza commercials at this stage? What’s her background? Maybe we could see something from her perspective? I wonder if you could slow things down in this opening and allow things to unravel over a little more time?
Congratulations and the very best of luck with this.
caz2108
 30 Sep 2011, 10:37 #131187 Reply To Post
Many thanks for the mini critique which has encouraged me to carry on with Peabody, and given me lots of ideas.

Caz
jskinner16
 30 Sep 2011, 16:10 #131228 Reply To Post
Many thanks also for the mini critique of Pigs Might Fly, and thanks to all readers for your reviews.
JS
Orson
 03 Oct 2011, 12:23 #131414 Reply To Post
Thank you very much for your mini-critique. You have offered some useful advice which I look forward to implementing.

Many Thanks

Gavin
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