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YouWriteOn August 2012 Critiques - Random House, Orion Reviews
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 06 Sep 2012, 22:17 #157566 Reply To Post
YouWriteOn August 2012 Critiques - Random House, Orion Reviews

Each month on editors from Random House, and Orion, provide an indepth critique of up to three highly rated Top Ten novel openings from budding authors, and provide mini-reviews for the rest of the top ten youwriteon stories. Random House publish authors such as Dan Brown and Terry Pratchett.

The editor feedback aims to assist all budding authors in their story development by giving feedback as to what editors are looking for in novels and novel openings submitted to them.

Random House Editor Reviews Click here to view the stories which are listed under July 2012
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 20 Sep 2012, 13:51
 06 Sep 2012, 22:18 #157567 Reply To Post
Professional mini critique for Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon

Congratulations on being well-rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I really enjoyed reading the opening pages of your novel. I was particularly impressed with the strong opening – it is intriguing, beautifully written and compels the reader to want to find out more. Your prose is also very sophisticated – poetic yet not overwritten, allowing the significance of each line to really shine, rather than being overshadowed by too much description. It’s clear that you know the importance of the maxim ‘less is more’.

But while you write very well, I did think that your plotting and structure needed some attention. The narrative doesn’t feel like it’s progressing in any real sense in these early pages; it’s almost as if the story is circling in on itself, rather than moving forwards with purpose and pace. I would suggest maybe storyboarding your novel, looking at each scene and chapter, so you can more easily see where the narrative slows in places. Because even though your storytelling can be reflective and thoughtful, it does still need a sense of movement and progression if you are to keep the reader invested in your characters’ journeys.

Professional mini critique for A Million Pebbles on the Beach by Lin Forrester

Congratulations on being well-rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the opening pages of your novel. I thought the first chapter was particularly strong – intriguing and dramatic. But after such a compelling opening, the following chapters don’t quite deliver on the promising potential of the first. The pace and tension begins to dissipate. You need to work on maintaining the same level of suspense and intrigue you build so brilliantly in your opening chapter. The first few chapters are the most crucial – particularly given that on so many online retailer websites, customers are able to view the first few chapters before they decide to buy, so you have to keep them hooked and wanting to read more. For example, you segue into how Faye acquired Arnie, which does feel like an overly long aside that distracts from the unfolding drama at such an early juncture in the novel. Details like this can be interwoven in smaller chunks as the narrative progresses. The opening chapters needs to be much more streamlined and focused if you are to really pull the reader into your fictional world. Remember that less is often more. The reader doesn’t need to know everything from the get-go. By withholding information, you actually create a greater sense of mystery and intrigue, and this in turns adds an extra layer of complexity to the portrayal of your protagonist.

Professional mini critique for The Splendour of Anna Stern by Jeffrey Manton

Congratulations on being well-rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the early pages of your novel but I did feel that they could benefit from further development. The first chapter felt quite clunky in places. You rely too heavily on dialogue as a means to fill the reader in on background detail. You need to show the reader what is happening, not tell them. And by showing them, this can be subtly, through someone’s tone, behaviour or even what they don’t say. The reader doesn’t need to know everything that the protagonist has been through in the first chapter. It is much better to drop them into the middle of the story and weave through the necessary details as the novel progresses. The focus should be on creating a compelling plot and hooking the reader in these crucial early chapters. Context can come later.

There is also no real sense of atmosphere – after all, Anne is seeing a foreign place for the very first time, yet it is described in quite pedestrian terms. Similarly, you don’t quite capture Anne’s fear and trepidation. You speak of it, but again – you are telling the reader, not showing them, so the impact becomes lessened. It seems that this will be a very character-driven book, so it’s important that the reader is aligned with your protagonist very early on if they are to want to follow her journey through to the end. And you don’t really get under her skin in these early pages. You need to explore what is unique and individual about Anne, not paint her in broad brushstrokes. And by creating a more compelling protagonist, you will draw the reader into your story all the more.

Natalie, Editor, Pan Macmillian
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 06 Sep 2012, 22:19
 07 Sep 2012, 08:23 #157578 Reply To Post
I would like to thank Natalie for her helpful comments about 'Pebbles' but I don't know the protocol.
 13 Sep 2012, 12:32 #158043 Reply To Post
A Village Called Faraway - Random House Editor Critique

Dear Terri,

Congratulations on A Village Called Faraway. I enjoyed the read very much; you’ve got an interesting cast of characters and setting, and I can see a clear pitch and market for your novel. Most of my notes below are concerned with pulling things together as a whole more fluidly, and enhancing certain aspects that you already have in there. I hope they’re useful as you revisit the manuscript.

The Characters
You have some potentially great characters in here but I don’t feel like they’re vivid enough yet, with distinct enough voices. We move from one to another without really getting to know them, and I so wanted to know them and be able to understand them better. As this is such a character-led plot and novel, I think it’s vital that they be as strong as possible, all with a very clear story arc.
I’d love to get inside your characters’ heads, and I don’t think you’d need to switch your narrative style, which I think works well, in order to do this. As you have all these interweaving stories coming together I’d suggest possibly taking a few characters – Nikos, Elpida and either Dragan or Bilyana, perhaps, and focusing in on them particularly, showing how they and their lives change and develop over the course of the book. Can you tell us more about their backgrounds, their personal lives, their thoughts and feelings etc? Make sure you have a clear voice for them all and let it ring out for your readers. Once your readers feel attached to your characters, it will really pull the novel together.
I think they could also do with more description then we have at the moment. I can’t quite picture them. They have names unfamiliar to most of your readers, so I think being able to imagine each of them in our heads is particularly important here.
And how do they interact with each other? I’m sure (having read your synopsis) this is something that develops more as the novel continues. But with Nikos, for example – he’s a relative newcomer in a village that doesn’t seem to like change. There must be more suspicion of him etc? Could there even be almost a rival character who has the ear of the villagers in the absence of a priest they trust? And how is Elpida received back into the village? Wouldn’t there be some resentment that she moved away in the first place?

Kyria Panayiota
I love the idea of Kyria Panayiota’s secret, and I think it adds a tension from the outset that sets the tone really well. However, because we never meet her and at the moment we don’t know the surrounding characters well enough it’s hard to understand why Nikos would be so fixated on finding out the truth. It might also work to make the spirit of Kyria Panayiota, or rather her impact on the plot, almost a character in itself. How has her death and her secret affected the remaining villagers?

Showing Vs telling
I think there are places you can really afford to slow things down, to show us what is happening rather than telling us. This will also help lift your characters, and in general add a little more atmosphere than we have at the moment. It might work well, for example, to show us Kyria Panayiota’s funeral. It would help cement her as a character in her own right and it would be a lovely opportunity to see all the villagers together and how they interact.
I think it would also be useful to show us rather than tells us about things like the ripples of tension in the village, or even certain character traits. Rather than a sort of summary paragraph, for example, it could work brilliantly to show Elpida going into the village on a normal day wearing trousers, and showing us the immediate reaction from villagers – their shock and disapproval would really show through if we’ve seen it first hand.

The Setting
I love the fact that Makria is a place so different from something your readers will know, but I really feel that it’s not as 3D as it could be at the moment. It could be incredibly evocative in terms of things like the weather and the scenery as well as the cultural differences you show us at the moment. There’s some beautiful writing in here so, following on from my above point, it would be worth really slowing down and showing us exactly what this Greek village is like.

On reading the sample coupled with the synopsis, I wonder if there are quite enough highs and lows in here to keep readers gripped throughout. I’m not suggesting that you make the novel something it is, and I love its gentle appearance with the undercurrent of something more sinister. Also, emotions will be higher as we get to know the characters better and therefore feel much more invested in them, but having said that, I do think we could do with some more dramatic action earlier on in the book. Perhaps it could be more around Kyria Panayiota’s for example? Could maybe more people hear of her death-bed claims? Or could there be a real suspicion of foul play? Or could Elpida turning up be more dramatic? Could it be unannounced, for example? Or maybe we could even see the man in the opening paragraphs finding his dogs poisoned?

As I said above, you have got all the elements for this to be a strong novel, and I hope that my notes will help you to build a little more on what you have. Wishing you the very best of luck with your writing,

Ruth, Editor, Random House
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 13 Sep 2012, 12:34
 13 Sep 2012, 12:33 #158044 Reply To Post
Jack Par(r) by David Llewellyn

This is a fun read that I very much enjoyed – actually even laughing out loud on a few occasions! I do feel that it gets stronger as you go along, though. At points in the opening of the story, Jack’s voice is a little too knowing for a boy his age. I wonder if it might be worth looking again at the opening section?

I think you’ve done a great job of the dialogue between the children, and I wondered if there was scope to do more with Jack’s family so they’re as strong? I’d also love to know more about Jack as a person, his likes and dislikes, how he feels about his sister etc, and I think there’s space to do this without slowing the pace too much.

I really like the idea of the occasional illustration as you’ve suggested. It’s something that will appeal to boy readers of this age group and positions it clearly in the very successful Wimpy Kid model. . Congratulations!

Jolted by Fleur Ferris

I found this very gripping, and an innovative take on this sort of teen-girl novel. I found the opening and the way we are forced straight into the scandal very impactful, but it means that we don’t actually get to see Madi and her family or relationships as they were before this happened, which I think would really pull things together well.What was her life like? What were her plans etc? Perhaps you could consider transferring your current opening into a sort of prologue/flash forward?

I love the moral dilemma aspect of whether Madi should tell her father about what she’s seen and that’s what sets this apart from other teen divorce novels for me. The confession actually happened all too quickly for me, and I wonder if you could slow things down and build the tension even more before things come out in the open?

In general, actually, and on reading the synopsis, it feels lie the action moves too quickly – though clearly there is some very powerful stuff to come. I think you could afford to slow the pace, without it dragging, meaning actually we’d get to know Madi slightly better than we do at the moment.

The Cheats by Ian Harvey-Brown

I think there’s a very strong dystopian novel in here, and I enjoyed reading it, but at the moment it feels a little too confusing, with the world and characters quite hard to navigate. It’s incredibly intriguing, and there are some lovely details in the world you created, like the gadgets and the deathday, but I think we need to have some more backstory and development to make it as clear and vivid for the reader as possible. There are places where I feel that there is the space to include some more explanation on the roles in this new world, and to show us how different it is from the world we know. How do these new gadgets affect your characters’ lives on a normal day-to-day basis etc? Can we see them in action rather than just hearing about them?

Jack is a good character, and I love the dynamic between him and Erin, but I think he needs to be more developed too. At the moment, his voice changes considerably; from very bitter (although extremely powerful ) and adult in the opening section of the sample, to much more child-like towards the end, and this is something that will need to be consistent to make him as strong a character as he can be. Can we slowly learn more about him and how he thinks and feels about things, for example. I think you could make a little more out of your first person narrative. How does he feel about his dad and his brother? Can we see them together?

Ruth, Editor, Random House
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 13 Sep 2012, 12:34
 13 Sep 2012, 12:35 #158045 Reply To Post
Thank you for comments, we will pass on all comments to the editors for the critiques. Ruth, Random House Editor, commented re her critiques above: "I enjoyed this month's - they were a strong batch. Please do pass my congratulations onto the authors."
 14 Sep 2012, 12:58 #158096 Reply To Post
Could you please pass on my thanks to Ruth for her mini review on Jolted. I am doing revisions on Jolted now and will experiment with the opening scene as per Ruth's advice.


Fleur Ferris

Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Thursday, 13 Sep 2012 12:35
Thank you for comments, we will pass on all comments to the editors for the critiques. Ruth, Random House Editor, commented re her critiques above: "I enjoyed this month's - they were a strong batch. Please do pass my congratulations onto the authors."

 20 Sep 2012, 11:00 #158359 Reply To Post
Please pass on my thanks to Ruth. Her critique is really helpful and contains some brilliant advice that I know I'll be turning to again and again as I attempt to turn A Village Called Faraway into a proper novel. It will take time for me to absorb all the comments, but I feel they will really help me to become a better writer. I'm very, very grateful.
 26 Sep 2012, 23:56 #158533 Reply To Post
I am trying to find the August critiques from Bloomsbury. Mostly mine, to be honest (French Train). If anyone knows where these are, can you let me know? I checked the blog site but it hasn't been updated since July. Thanks! Pat
ps I thought I put this post somewhere else but now I can't find it. Sorry.
Prentice Burr
 05 Nov 2012, 16:53 #159771 Reply To Post
Pat - Same here, no sign of the critique of my Digging. Others from August are up here though. Strange.
Quote: pat, Wednesday, 26 Sep 2012 23:56
I am trying to find the August critiques from Bloomsbury. Mostly mine, to be honest (French Train). If anyone knows where these are, can you let me know? I checked the blog site but it hasn't been updated since July. Thanks! Pat
ps I thought I put this post somewhere else but now I can't find it. Sorry.

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