I have finished working on chapters one to three of this novel. I would love feedback from you.
Slow down. You have an interesting idea going and you are whipping through it like a cheetah with its tail on fire.
Slow down. Wayyyy down. Put us somewhere, in a real space, a physical place sensually described, let the narrator be there experiencing something carefully, precisely, completely, through senses and mind--thoughts, sure, but reflection more importantly. Write scenes that expand moments, so that we, the reader, spend several minutes experiencing a few seconds of wonder in the world you have brought us to.
I take it you aren't planning to publish this other than self-publishing given that you are posting it all online.
If you're asking for people to tell you what a wonderful job you've done then sorry, I'll pass.. but if you want honest feedback and help on improving your novel, then this is my honest opinion.
First, before that, think of how you're going to publish this. If it's self-published or published only online, then this won't matter much, but if you hire a company, or submit a manuscript to a company, I suggest that you be very careful about where you publish your material. Most places ask for original content as well as first rights. Even though it's online, many companies see this as already published material. If they find that it's already been published, you may find yourself having difficulties. My suggestion, if you're going to try to publish this professionally, find a secure writers critique group that you can share your content with.
And now, on to the feedback.
My first impression of the story was this: Some random person who I don't know is going to tell me a story about something that hasn't been defined, other than the fact that this person can tell it in a way that hasn't been told before. Of course, everyone on the planet tells stories differently, so there's still nothing new yet. Suddenly, and inexplicably, I'm thrust into a history narrative, followed by a progressively mundane biography.
It could be a great story, in fact, it could be a best seller - but I'll never know because I couldn't get past the first few paragraphs.
Ok, not to worry. This happens. Truthfully, this is a decent first rough draft. But, at this stage, that's all it is. I don't want to discourage you at all, but when someone asks for honest feedback, I'd rather tell the truth and be hated for it rather than give false platitudes about how wonderful things are. That's what family's for.
Most new(er) writers make the same mistakes. From what I've seen, you've fallen into the same traps that all writers start from. So, starting from the top, I'll try to list a few things that I see here.
* Create a solid "hook" - Generally, if you don't catch your readers attention within the first couple sentences, they'll move on to greener pastures. I lost interest after the first sentence, but to be fair, I continued reading. Still, I didn't find anything that really captivated me right away.
A "hook" is a writing device that draws readers into the story. It creates interest right off the bat, and makes people want to delve in deeper to find out what happens next. In fact, for the best written books, this process is repeated time and time again. I'll get to that in a second. A hook generally poses a question or presents a dilemma. For a good article on writing hooks, read this.
*Show, don't tell - This old adage is the backbone to any good novel. Readers want to be drawn in to the action, they want to feel as if they are there, living the words they read. In Chapter 1, you spend the majority of the time telling the reader different things; who the person is, their background, the history of French Revolution - these things matter, but they don't draw the reader in.
There are several ways to show the story. I strongly believe in Dwight V. Swains MRU explanation. While very formulaic, once the principal is understood it can really transform a novel. Essentially, an MRU is a Motivation-Reaction unit. Something happens, then there's a reaction to it, then the next thing happens...and so on. For example, "The window shattered, spraying glass daggers throughout the room. (The motivation) Melvin grabbed his arm and fell to the floor. (The Reaction) Dark blood seeped through his fingers as the sound of tires squealing against pavement echoed outside. (The motivation)"
Each sentence should pull the reader through the story. Background information is needed, but should be used sparingly and only at the right times. Instead of telling about the French Revolution, bring us into the story and show us that it's going on. "The roar of cannon fire echoed across the English Channel as the British continued their bombardment. I hugged my knees to my chest in fear, tightly closing my eyes and pretended that the revolution was over. The French fired back, and the blast caused the house to shudder." Here's another site for you to look at: Show, don't tell
*Edit, Edit, Edit - A good 90% of a writers job is editing. I'm not talking about grammar and spelling, although those are important, I'm talking about readability. Each sentence should serve one point - to move the story forward. If the sentence doesn't move the story forward then it doesn't belong. This is why I say that you have a great first draft. What you wrote is a great outline of a story, and with a good bit of editing, it has the potential to be a good story.
At the risk of turning this post into a novella in itself, I'll provide you with a couple resources before I finish.
Read and learn all you can about writing. Some good books are Dwight V. Swain's "Techniques of the Selling Writer", "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B.White, "On Writing" by stephen king, and "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser. These are pretty much requirements for learning how to write, and I'm pretty sure that you can find all of them at the library.
Keep writing. As you discover different techniques on how to write well, put them into practice. Most authors don't get published until they've written thousands upon thousands of words. Writing is easy, but writing well take a lot of work and a lot of practice.
I can tell that you're dedicated and passionate about this, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. You're already a lot farther along than most. Usually, someone starts out to write a book and end up giving up after a few paragraphs. You already have a good story, all the background information, and the drive to get it done. Now it just comes down to writing the story and editing it so that your readers will enjoy it.
I hope this helps, and that you're not ready to shoot me by the time that you get this far. I wish you the best, and after you've made your first million, don't forget about us little guys that's tried to help you out!
Good luck with it!
Thank very much for your honesty. I will be sure to read through your helpful pointers again. This is a novel in progress. But do not wish it to be published. I just love writing and I love history.
Many people have told me that they enjoy my beginning... You are the first to tell me it that doesn't hook you. So do you think it's your personally opion or not?
This is a very long time project. I know it will take a while before it is complete,as I wrote it when I was 14.
Thank you once again.
Please don't stop giving me advice.
I do apologize for the mistakes in my previous comment. I typed it all on an iPhone.
Since you're not planning on having it published, ignore pretty much everything I said.
Most people who write as intensely as you do plan on eventually publishing, and the majority of those people become disillusioned, especially after going through a large stack of rejection slips. (I have a nice large pile of them myself, which I use as fire-starters) I've been involved in many critique groups over the years, and the things that I pointed out are all things that keep people from getting published.
If you're writing for your own enjoyment, it doesn't matter what anyone says - you've created a masterpiece simply because you wrote it and it came from your heart. Still, I'm extremely happy that you're taking the time to learn - that's one of the marks of a great author.
When it comes to your "hook", some of what I said is my opinion, but a lot of it is grounded in reality. Most of the time, people will tell you nice things about what you write simply because they don't want to upset you.
I went along for a couple years thinking that everything I wrote would one day end up as a best seller. So, I decided to try to get published. After getting a few tons of rejection slips and generally feeling like a talentless fool, I decided to join a professional critique group. The first thing I submitted was, looking back, utter crap. On top of all the rejection slips, I now had people ripping and shredding my hard work down to nothing. -But, in the end, it was the best thing I've ever done. I've never seen so much brutal honesty, but if it wasn't for them I could have never become a professional writer.
After going through those critique groups, I realized that I had no desire to write long novels. I found that the thing I enjoyed most was writing magazine articles and short stories. Now, most everything I write about is about the history of Oklahoma. Instead of writing dry, factual articles, I use what I've learned in order to bring those stories to life. The article I wrote on Witteville, for example, is a second draft for an article that was published recently.
I digress; back to your hook..
Just by tweaking things a little here and there, you can create a lot of interest. Stories need to pull people along, like dangling a candy bar in front of a little boy. Once I waded through all of the background information, then I started to get interested. For most people, they want to jump right into the story. I can tell you've put a lot of work into this - and you wrote it at 14! That's damn impressive - and I think that it is something that you could one day have published. Even if you never do, I would still join a critique group. The one over at Writers Digest (forums is excellent. They won't judge you, and will only do their best to help you grow as a writer. Best of all, by posting bits of your story there, you'll get an uncensored view of your strengths and weaknesses as an author.
What impresses me the most here is that you started when you were 14, and haven't given up since then. That's an amazing feat and something to be extremely proud of!
You're doing a great job, and I'm interested to see where the story leads us next...
Thank you very much for all your help Urbane Chaos. To be utterly honest, I had given up on my story today. Your previous comment really helped me see what I needed to work on. But I wasn't having much luck on editing the first chapter. I know it won't take a few hours to do, but usually it comes to me. I had a case of writer's block; I wanted to take your critique and make my story more exciting, but I just couldn't.
You have now given me more confidence. But I know it's going to take a long time for me to get it right.
I really appreciate all your help.
Hey Indie, you should never give up writing, and I think that one of the hardest things about writing is asking people what they think about your precious hard work and then them actually telling you!
The only way we learn as writers is by experience and constructive criticism, and I think that we have to grow very thick skins!
So you carry on your writing, believe in yourself and don't let anyone put you off!
BTW I'm just about to finish the first draft of my kid's novel, so am steeling myself for some very frank views on about it LOL!
First and foremost, don't ever give up! This is something that you've spent a lot of time on, and something that emerges somewhere from deep inside.
Writing isn't easy, and anyone who tells you it is is a damn fool. It takes a lot of patience and dedication. And yes, you'll bang your head against a wall a million times before you get it right. But, and this is the thing that makes it special - when all is said and done, and you lay your pen (or keyboard) down for the last time, that's when you're filled with pride. It's a feeling that can't be put into words.
Keep learning, and keep writing. Those books that I suggested earlier will really open your eyes to a lot of things. Remember, you have your own truely unique voice. The books are there only to give you ideas and help you along your way, but the advice they give are invaluable.
I agree 100% with CMHypno, as a writer, you have to have an extremely thick skin. Just taking the step to ask for feedback is a major achievement, and it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that.
I remember a few years back, I met someone similar. She had worked on a book for many years, but just kept getting stuck. She had a good manuscript, but her biggest problem was that she told the story, and didn't really involve the people reading it. But, she was dedicated, and was always eager for more information. For several months after she joined, she would bring in her revised work only to have it ripped apart by our critique group. She never quit though, and that's what made the difference.
She came in one day, just like all the previous weeks, and laid down the first few pages of her book. Like usual, we were ready to tell her the same things that we've told her before, but this time was different. Immediately, we were drawn into the book. By the time we got to the end of what she had, we were eager for more. Thing is, something just clicked. She found her voice and it was all gravy after that.
Last I heard, she was working on publishing her fifth book. She's by far exceeded anyone who was in that writers group, but it was all because of her hard work and determination to get it done.
Point is, don't ever give up. You have a lot of talent, now it's time to focus on the mechanics. I really have a feeling that you can go far with this.
You might want to consider that most people, especially those who know you, are more interested in being nice than being honest.
You need to decide whether you write just to express yourself, or for a certain audience, or with the goal of becoming a professional level writer. That would help those of us who don't know you give useful feedback.
This might seem to be a small point, but if you choose to write about an affluent English girl during the Georgian period, you need to put the right language in her mouth and the prevailing attitudes into her head.
For example, 'lonesome' is a word mainly used by Americans, it is not an English expression. Also, while Georgian girls were taught to give charity to the worthy poor locally, it is very unlikely that they would have even thought of, let alone be concerned with, global poverty on any scale. They would have been brought up by a governess, whose main aim was to produce a lady who would make a good wife, know her duties and not be an embarrassment in society. Too many historical fiction writers put 21st century beliefs and moral concepts into their historical characters and it just makes me chuck the book out of the window!
Read Jane Austen to get a feel for these girl's interests -it was mainly family and local happenings, with maybe some music or art. Georgette Heyer is also brilliant at recreating this time in history, so have a read.
Good luck with the book and let us know how you get on!
yeah, do not give up! Believe you have talent.
On the other hand, seems like I am interested to read your novel.. looking forward to it!
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