Tuesday, October 30, 2007

3rd YWO Review, no more rejections yet

'Alastaira1' wrote:
I found this a very well crafted and competent piece of work. The plot, characters and dialogue all appear very natural and believable. The pace is fast and it is generally tightly written. I think the constant changes in points of view work well, and no doubt will slowly build up a complete 360 degree picture of Amelia and her death just as a police investigation attempts to do- so a very effective device.

My only criticisms were 1) A little more descriptive to create a stronger sense of atmosphere and place, and 2) The reader is being required to absorb a huge amount of information very quickly: names, relationships, places, events, timelines, which I frankly found quite tiring and to be honest I did find my concentration starting to stray at times. While I wanted to stick with it because the story is interesting and seems fairly novel in spite of a very crowded genre I did find my enthusiasm sagging at times under the weight of all this information -obviously you want to keep the pace brisk, but is there some way you can also weave in a certain atmosphere or suspense which I found lacking?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Peer reviews at YouWriteOn.com

I really can't believe that it's taken me so long to discover this website. For anyone that doesn't know, it's funded by the Arts Council and you upload your 1st 10,000 words for peer review by other members. You can only earn reviews by writing reviews and so it goes, around and around. By recieving positive reviews, a work may move up the chart and, if it reaches the top, recieve a free 'professional' critique from either an agent, an editor or a published author.

I uploaded my stuff for Amelia's Body yesterday and have recieved 2 reviews so far. One loved it, the other hated it. See for yourself!

'Sensian' said:
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. There was only one point I found a little confusing which was the part where Amelia, Caroline and Rose were sitting together playing Sylvanian Families. I am not sure if it was a slip of point of view but I had to reread this part a couple of times. I lost who was narrating.Apart from this I found myself wanting to know what happened next. I instantly took to the characters, especially those of the detectives, and the descriptions gave a pefect image. I knew how they all looked, what their surroundings were like and their character. I would definitely buy this book. I am just a little disappointed I couldn't finish it today. An enjoyable read thank you.

But 'RonMcMillan' said:
I am sorry to have given fairly low marks for this review, but if I didn't I don't think I would be being honest.The author has a good ear for teenagers' dialogue, and does a good job of making the chat among the teenagers sound real, and believable. Some of her detail in terms of narrative description is strong and entertaining, too.However, the way the plotline is laid out, complete with irritating interruptions in the form of headlines/titles, reads, not cleverly, but annoyingly -- as if the writer could not be bothered developing the plot in the narrative, and thought it would be a good idea to stick in a few short-cuts along the way.Sentence lengths vary too much -- and err on the side of the over-long, in my opinion. The author might, if not already doing so, read the text aloud; this is a time-served way of identifying faults of all types.

I have the feeling that a distinct gender-divide may open up over this book. 'Sensian' is definitely female (I know from her online biog.) and 'RonMcMillan' speaks for itself (His uploaded book, by the way, seems to be about a middle-aged photographer getting offered lots of sex in the Far East: wishful thinking perhaps?).

Off to earn some more reviews.

Friday, October 26, 2007

12 Rejections

The latest one said:

A clever idea but lacks a central character for me to care about - a hero/heroine - I like the old fashioned sort of story.

I'm back to the same old problem. My book does have a central, sympathetic character: Caroline, the childhood best friend of the victim, but she obviously isn't coming across effectively within the first two and a half thousand words.

I've been re-reading Agatha Christie, particularly a book of short stories called 'Miss Marple's Final Cases'. It's her opening lines that really impress me - they convey so much so efficiently. This is a skill I obviously haven't developed yet. For example, from an exquisite little story called The Dressmaker's Doll:
The doll lay in the big velvet-covered chair. There was not much light in the room; the London skies were dark. In the gentle, greyish-green gloom, the sage-green coverings and the curtains and the rugs all blended with each other. The doll blended too. She lay long and limp and sprawled in her green velvet clothes and her velvet cap and the painted mask of her face. She was the Puppet Doll, the whim of rich women, the doll who lolls beside the telephone, or among the cushions of the divan. She sprawled there, teternally limp and yet strangely alive...

There's so much repetition in these few lines - green, velvet, sprawled - and yet still it works. You can see the room. You already know that the doll is slightly sinister, even before you've clocked that it's a ghost story.

Or this, from Tape-Measure Murder:
Miss Politt took hold of the knocker and rapped politely on the cottage door. After a discreet interval she knocked again. The parcel under her left arm shifted a little as she did so, and she readjusted it. Inside the parcel was Mrs Spenlow's new green winter dress, ready for fitting. From Miss Politt's left hand dangled a bag of black silk, containing a tape measure, a pincushion, and a large, practical pair of scissors...

Even though you've been told it's called the tape-measure murder, and here is Miss Politt, the dress-maker (a coincidence, there are no further dress-makers in the collection) whom we are told is carrying a tape-measure, and whom we can picture perfectly from this brief description, yet it is still a surprise when she is revealed to have murdered Mrs Spenlow only minutes beforehand.

So, 12 rejections, 3 submissions outstanding - possibly binned. I'm beginning to look at The Writer's Handbook in a different way. It's touted as the key to the kingdom but this is a lie. It is the lock on the door. The primary function of The Writer's Handbook is to stop unpublished authors from pestering the better-known agents and publishing houses. Nine out of ten rejections begin As this is only a very small agency, it is not possible for us to.... You can tell it's a non-starter from the address before you even post your submission to Wisteria Cottage, 5 Drystone Lane, Little Foxington, somewhere-in-Essex/Devon/Lincolnshire. It's nothing but an enormous con and I'm sick of it.

From a couple of weeks ago - never got posted:

Do you know what I want? (what I really, really want)
I want a housekeeper. Just for a couple of hours a day. More than (almost) anything in the world I want someone to come along and look after me and this house while I write. I don't want to think about the washing or the cat or the shopping or just how dirty the kitchen floor is becoming. I want to be able to wake up in the morning, make a nice cup of tea, wave the kids off and just start working while someone else (someone well-paid and respected of course, so I don't have to feel bad about it) does a bit of housework or puts a casserole in the oven. Wouldn't it be heavenly? I wonder how many books you have to sell in order to live like that.