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Anyone fancy critiquing the beginning of my latest work-in-progress?

Discussion in 'Book club' started by Robsia, May 6, 2011.

  1. I am about 35K words into my latest book - which I initially dubbed a chick-lit, but it is a little darker than that. Men are welcome to have a read too - it's always hard to make sure you write the other sex realistically.
    I have posted the prologue and first chapter on my blog, if anyone woud like to have a look at it and tell me what you think.

    Title: All That Glisters

    Blurb: Leanne Hughes has it all. She is beautiful, thin, rich and famous! So why is she found in the bathtub of her luxury mansion, wrists slashed? 'All that Glisters' is a dark look at what happens to a normal girl who unexpectedly wins the lottery and finds that money and fame doesn't necessarily bring happiness.

    All that glisters is not gold;
    Often have you heard that told:
    Many a man his life hath sold
    But my outside to behold:
    Gilded tombs do worms enfold.

    The Merchant of Venice, Act II Scene VII, William Shakespeare

    Prologue: http://mrs-grumpy2010.livejournal.com/2011/05/04/

    Chapter One: http://mrs-grumpy2010.livejournal.com/2011/05/06/
  2. I didn't read your work in progress for two reasons.
    Firstly, you say you haven't edited it. Your blog is your shop window and its a really bad idea to put up something that isn't finished. Its not a great way to show off your work.
    Secondly, there is something missing from what you call the blurb and that something is the suggestion of a plot. There is a character description but no indication of what the action is. After you ask why she's in her 'bathtub' (are you American?) there should be an indication of how she might have got there. Is it because of character A, who has done or said something odd, or is it because of character B, who has also done or said something similarly, but uniquely, odd. That would be your hook, but you haven't got one. If the hook exists, you need to summarise it for the potential reader.
    All That Glisters doesn't tell me anything either, I'm afraid, and nor does the quote from Shakespeare.
    You don't appear to know what genre you're writing in - you say its chick-lit but darker. Chick-lit isn't dark. If you don't know what genre it is, a publisher won't know either and they will reject it because they won't know how to market it.
    It could be that you're just not selling it well but you really need to polish all this up if anyone is to invest the effort in reading it.
  3. Hi chocolatebox9 and thank you for your comments. I will try to address your points:
    I said that the book is largely unedited, not the two excerpts I have posted. They have been edited, although I have put them up on my blog so that fresh eyes can point out things that I have missed. If the book had been totally polished I would not be putting up excerpts for critique. I am not trying to sell it at this stage - but rather to improve it.
    The words "wrists slashed" indicate that she has tried to commit suicide. Given that she is "beautiful, rich, thin and famous" the reader is supposed to wonder why she has tried to commit suicide. That is 'the hook', Apologies if that was not clear enough. No I'm not American, but I do spend time with people who use American English - that one slipped in. Thank you for pointing it out [​IMG]
    Basically it means that money isn't everything.
    I said that I initially dubbed it as chick-lit but that in fact it is darker than chick-lit. I'm not sure what to dub it - I was hoping for some suggestions. It is definitely a woman's fiction but it is also definitely not a chick-lit.
    Maybe - thank you for all your invaluable help. Obviously I need to be far clearer - sometimes when you are writing you know what's in your head and you think you're being clear, but you aren't always. Hence the necessity for fresh eyes to look over a piece to say "Hang on, what does this mean?" and suggestions for improvement.
  4. I repeat that its a very bad idea to put up something that isn't finished. If you can't see why then I don't know how else I can explain it to you. If its just something to amuse your friends then it doesn't matter but it looks like you're aiming for publication. No-one can or will do your editing for you. Its got to be as good as you think its going to get before you publish it anywhere, including online.
    What you describe is a fait accompli - she's already dead. There's no sense of a dynamic plot, or indeed any plot at all.
    I am aware of the meaning of 'all that <strike>glisters</strike> glistens'. What I meant is that its a cliche and you won't attract potential readers by choosing a cliche for your title.
    You, the author, need to decide what genre you are writing in. If you don't know, no-one else will either.
    If you're looking for feedback on your work, a writing course or a local writers group would be better places to start than publishing online.
  5. Thank you once again for your input.
    I belong to a SFF writers' forum where we frequently critique each other's work, but only in the SFF genre. As my current book is not SFF, they won't allow it to be posted on there, so I was searching for something similar among the other forums I frequent.
    Sorry if that was a faux pas.
  6. Ok, I have had a reread.
    I won't go into the debate about whether you should already be publishing even bits of it or not and accept that you are genuinely looking for critique.
    I will point out things that are "disturbing" me and you can make of them what you will, as I don't want to tell you how to write (I don't think that works anyway).
    I am confused as to the genre, like others. You say it is "dark" but I don't find it dark at all. You say the fact that she has slashed her wrists should grab our attention. I am afraid it doesn't grab mine. I don't know her at all, apart from her being "young, rich and beautiful" but there is nothing in your blurb which makes me interested enough to want to read on as to why she slashed her wrists.
    I think your style is too descriptive. You tell, rather than show. That means there is no "question mark" - nothing to make me wonder or second guess.
    Secondly, I have been wondering why if she is so distraught (was or will be) that so much emphasis is placed on a bronzed bloke with a great torso and some sweat.
    If you are going to concentrate on the reasons for her slashing her wrists, then you need to be a lot more dark and physchological - otherwise it just reads as a Mills and Boon, where pretty lady with a few hang ups will have her life sorted by a good looking guy.
    Either write chick lit or write dark and psychological.
    The latter is probably more challenging and I think is what you really would like to do - but then you need (in my humble opinion) to leave out the six pack guys.
    For an idea of what I mean with dark and psychological, read some Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendall). I think she does it really well.
  7. Oh, and as to your blurb
    Leanne Hughes has it all. She is beautiful, thin, rich and famous! So
    why is she found in the bathtub of her luxury mansion, wrists slashed?
    'All that Glisters' is a dark look at what happens to a normal girl who
    unexpectedly wins the lottery and finds that money and fame doesn't
    necessarily bring happiness.
    Why is she famous? (for being the winner of the lottery?)
    Why does she have it all?
    What was normal about her?
    Just off the top of my head, you could rewrite it as
    "Some would think Leanne Hughes has it all. A beautiful girl from a normal background wins the lottery and can allow herself a life of luxury. Little do they know the abyss that she looks upon, after she picks up the cheque and is thrown into a new world. "All that Glistens" is a story about luck, betrayal, mind games and survival. It will make you rethink about buying that lottery ticket."

  8. And even that is still Mills and Boon!
    "It all seems so perfect. Leanne Hughes wins the lottery. Her new life promises luxury, friends, travel and designer clothes. So what murky depths did she reach, before she was found with her wrists slashed in the bath of her luxury villa? "All that Glistens" leaves you wondering where the fine line between abuse and self destruction begins and ends and will have you with your fingers trembling the next time you fill in a lottery ticket".

  9. Now that is real help - thank you cq!
    I will definitely be rethinking the bronzed muscle bit - there is a lot of what I have already written I am making notes to rethink as the novel is coming out. That's the beauty of editing!
    I once read a piece of advice to just write the damn thing - let it all come out till you have finished and only THEN go back and edit it. Re-write the whole thing if necessary but tell the story first.
    So that is what I am doing at the moment - getting it all out and making notes as I go as to specifics I have to go back and change.
    I have found myself telling rather than showing as I go and I try to spot myself doing it, put what someone is thinking into dialogue or action rather than telling the reader what they are thinking.
    This is what fresh eyes are for, they see things that you don't see.
  10. I think that is the best advice. Never be afraid to radically cut bits out when editing.
    Good luck with it anyway - you'll get there, I'm sure [​IMG]

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