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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Critique Mode

Over the past few years as I've become serious about my writing, I've learned a lot about how to write well. And since joining ANWA, I've critiqued a few manuscripts which has helped my own writing a lot! But sometimes when I put down a manuscript and pick up something to read for fun, my brain doesn't switch modes readily. So last night I started wondering how I would have commented on some classic stories and some of my favorites:

Brandon, I love "Fablehaven!" I really want to live there now! I have a couple comments on your narrative. It flows very smoothly but you need to show more than you tell. Also, you have too many speaker tags. Change them to actions to keep the readers engaged.

Jane, I'm a total sucker for a happy ending so I adored "Pride and Prejudice!" I love the witty voice! One thing--your sentences are very long and complicated at times. Try to keep it simple so readers don't get frustrated. Also, check out ssa.gov for naming. You have too many Toms, Janes, and Marys.

Charlotte, your novel was...interesting. I'm still not sure about it. I have a couple problems with the plot. If Mr. Rochester doesn't care about what people think, why doesn't he just divorce his mad wife? Perhaps he can still take care of her, but sever their marriage so he can marry Jane. Also, you often interrupt dialog for long, internal ramblings. Try to cut those down. They slow the action.

Charles, "Bleak House" is the second MS of yours that I've read and I have the same problem I had with the first. There are too many characters to keep track of. Although I do like "Bleak House" much better than "Great Expectations," your narrative is very slow. You may find readers putting your books down for months at a time if you don't pick it up a bit.

Stephanie, "Twilight" was sincerely addicting. I'm not the usual type to get into the whole vampire thing, but you've changed my outlook there. I did notice that you often use the same adjectives to describe Edward--marble, ice, chiseled...I know you've probably started to run out of ways to describe his "stone" figure, but consider just deleting them.

:) Have a good day!


  1. I do the same! I'll end up critiquing a novel more than enjoying it, if there are too many of my pet peeves throughout the writing. I discussing my opinions with my 17yo, who usually catches the same things I do. If we agree, it feels great because I think I'm catching on to the whole self-editing thing. :D

    Here are a few of mine:

    Obert (Leven Thumps)--You have an interesting and unique story peppered with humor that's had me giggling out loud, but 2 to 3 speaker tags each time a person talks really slows down the dialogue. The dialogue should set the tone, and you don't need to constantly remind us that someone is yelling, screaming, scowling, or smiling. Also, I'm begging you to try to cut down on your adverbs. And do more showing and not telling.

    James Owen (Here, There Be Dragons)--You've created a fascinating storyline with many interesting twists, wonderful character development, humor, and dialogue, but please work on getting to the meat of the story faster, instead of making me yawn through the first half of the book before the real action starts.

    Cornelia--LOVE Inkheart and sort of liked the sequels, but if you cut out 3/4 of your similes and metaphors, it would shorten your books by about 100 pages. I know length is important in a novel, but don't add to its length by bogging it down with unnecessary description.

  2. When I started learning more about writing I wondered if it would ruin the reading experience for me. It hasn't ruined it, but it has changed it.

    Like you, I read/crit now instead of just reading. Here are some of mine.

    Nicholas Sparks (current read-The Last Song) - You tell lovely stories, no question, but to be frank, with the amount of telling you do and some of your word choices (couldn't some of them sparkle a bit more?), if I were Janet Reid, agent extraordinaire, I'm not sure I would have made an offer to you.

    Stephenie - I, like millions of others, got inexplicably drawn into your Twilight series - vampire stories are not my thing - but could you please give us a whole cast of three dimensional characters instead of just a few with three dimensions surrounded by lots of one or two dimensional ones? That would be great. Thanks.

    Suzanne - ALL of your characters are so real. Months after reading your Hunger Games series I find myself still wanting to know more about Cinna, several of the other victors, the avox introduced in book one and so many more. I want to write like you when I grow up.

    J.K. Rowling - Can I just say I love you? Would that be too weird?


About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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