Thursday, 6 January 2011

Awards Night and My Novel Feedback...

Last night my writers club finally got to hold their annual Awards Night (cancelled in December due to the snow) where all the members find out who has won the annual competitions; last year's winners get a little medallion to mark their previous win (I received the Drama trophy last year) and those who were placed first to third in the regular prose and poetry competitions throughout the year receive book tokens.

And outstanding competition entries and the judges feedback are returned.
Two Awards Night Trophies

We have a buffet and a few quizzes after the presentations. This year we had a
News quiz- given basic information and had to name the event, place or story. It is surprising how much you remember and forget over a year...

A page of cut-outs of eyes and we had to identify the owners...

And finally a fiendish music quiz. A story made up of song titles and it wasn't easy as they weren't modern ones. I'm glad to say my table won with only one answer wrong- we didn't know what that piece of music was called...

So to my novel feedback...

I've been fortunate that both the judges this year have been small publishers, one a writer as well.

Judge One who was reading my entry for the Romance competition (my entry is an historical romance) felt my story has potential but that the writer was 'trying to hold the reader at arms length' so they were not drawn in at the beginning.

(Now only today a number of trusted writer friends said the same thing about another piece of my writing unconnected to this one. So I know this is an issue.)

Very little character development and the story didn't have much 'flow'. Mainly because the story started later than it should- which is quite common. I might need to reinstate the prologue instead of it being chapter one, but that's an open issue at the moment.

The story moved 'too quickly' to allow reader sympathy- yes I can see that looking at it with another person's view.

But this judge did feel that the storyline was a good one but just needed a little extra to grab the reader.

So all is not lost yet I'm glad to say...

Judge Two was reading it as an entry to the novel competition. I'm glad to say the judge considered it a competent piece of work. The dialogue was considered lively and the language convincing. This judge seemed to like the opening.

Unfortunately my characters though well-drawn are 'all too shallow and predictable'. They actually found my character who is dead at the start of the story more exciting and complex, suggesting their drama was needed, perhaps in flashback.

The plot lacked 'intrigue and complexity'. It was suggested that a 'little more mystery and complexity mixed into the characterisation and plot' would help.


So conclusions.

1) I was playing too safe with my character development. Sort it out.

2) I need to bring back the 'dead' body- after talking about that idea with two fellow club members who know my writing style and way I plot, I'm fairly certain that the dead Antonia is going to be very much alive and would fit into and enliven my existing plot- she would certainly create trouble and cause conflicts...

3) Start the story earlier, which will help set-up the basis for my current first three chapters better (which will be different chapters when it's rewritten).

Everyone gets something different from a story and as the two judges have shown what bothers one may not necessarily worry another.
But when a number of people highlight the same weak spots then you listen and you do something about it.

Ignoring them is just asking for failure.

So I will be adding work on the novel to my list of aims for 2011.

On the bright side at least I know the story isn't beyond redemption...


Unknown said...

Cool that you've had these insights, Carol, and enough encouragement to give you hope. Time to get your teeth back into it now. Good luck!

Happy New Year,

Teresa Ashby said...

Those comments sound really helpful, Carol and you have a good base to work from. Good luck with the rewriting.

Brenda Gunning said...

Sounds like this has been very useful for you and your club members.
"Mainly because the story started later than it should- which is quite common."
Am not sure what is meant by this - is it common for writers in general to do this? Think this is a too subjective view, but then all critiques are I suppose !
Good luck with the reworking, but only do it if you are sure yourself that it's right to change it.

Carolb said...

Thank Col, it certainly has given me a new impetus. Happy New Year to you too.

Teresa thanks for the comments.

Lexia, yes it has been very useful and we;'ve been fortunate with the quality of the judging.
I do think that writers who are less experienced do find they start their stories in the less favourable place, sometimes it needs to be earlier, other times the start can actually be two or three chapters into what you've written.
Having re-read the comments I've a good idea of how to improve the weak areas and I'm okay with them and do believe they will help in the end. Thanks for the comments.

Angela Barton said...

Hi Carol, I'd love to read a few chapters of your novel. I admire you for writing a historical novel. I've always wanted to write one based around the workhouse in Southwell. I'm sure it takes a lot of research, time and accuracy. What year/s is your novel set in?

Carolb said...

My novel is set in Dorset in 1750, Ange.
Research is an interesting topic and your comments have inspired me to write a post about it as it does have some relevence to the recent novel feedback I received.
Hopefully it may give you the confidence to try your idea out.