Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The NWS report!

Today has thrown me an unexpected left hook. Although, comparing it to a punch isn't quite the simile I want. More just to point out the fact I was totally surprised when my NWS report arrived this morning.

I was caught off guard for two reasons. Firstly, I expected this report to take at least six weeks as my submission was later than planned and would be amongst the August rush. Second, I was merrily wondering what was in the white envelope and only twigged when I spotted my own hand writing on the label. I'd sent my submission in a brown envelope so I spent several moments blissfully unaware of what I was holding.

It has arrived back in less than two weeks so I was half expecting a report with the word 'RUBBISH' in capitals across the front but that's just what's been happening in my nightmares. Of course the RNA is a professional organisation who wouldn't do such things to their budding novelists and I was pleasantly surprised to find a very comprehensive report.

This is my first year in the New Writers' Scheme so I didn't know how much detail the report would go into but it is extensive. It covers all the aspects mentioned on the RNA website and really allows you insight into what you need to do to improve. My report includes several areas I need to work on. Here's a summary of those points, or rather my interpretation of them:
  • I haven't sussed the synopsis. I need to engage rather than just summerise.
  • I need to get me some beta readers. I didn't have time to read this out loud so I let too many dyslexic tendencies/mistakes through the net which, if I'd had the time, could have easily been picked up.
  • I need to consider market more.
  • My characters are a right pickle. The three main characters don't work and aren't likeable and they all need fixing! You would think this might have me crying in despair but as I read the report I was just nodding in agreement. Somehow I knew this had gone wrong and adding extra points of view later on has been far too much like crow-barring them in and it shows. If the story is to be successful this will be the biggest area to work on.
  • Motivations, along with character need to be sorted. I feel like I've been a half-a-job John. Next time, these will all be planned beforehand, I think!
  • Sometimes I tell instead of showing. I do this without always knowing and am passive on occasions so this needs work. This is, so I've read, classic novice behaviour and it really helps to have it pointed out to you. I've done my best to avoid it but without knowing it creeps in!
  • Under tagging - I've read several writers' guides during this and I feel a bit overwrought with the advice at times. I read about over tagging but have ended up going too far the other way and under tagging.
So those are the major areas, I think. There may be more but I won't write any more up for fear of depressing myself when I am still feeling decidedly buoyant.

The reason for my cheeriness is because in amongst the not-so-great news was much encouragement from my reader. My style and pace are good with a summary that's chalked up a happy smile. So to quote, here is my summary:

'I feel this is an author with a great deal of potential, however I would advise the author not to submit this mss to a publisher or agent at this point in time. The writer is clearly talented and I hope this critique is useful and the author does not feel downhearted by this report. There is much to praise in her work, a nice writing style, good voice and some lovely segments of mss which clearly show her potential as an author. I have made several comments on the manuscript to try and assist the author and illustrate some of the issues raised in the report. I wish her every success in the future and feel sure if she continues to work at her craft she will be successful.'

I must say a big thank you to my reader if by any chance they are reading this. The advice is just right and in no way discouraging. I know I'm not the finished article and am truly thankful to the RNA for this brilliant service.

I will end with more simile (a better effort than the punching lark.) I'm finding being a writer, is like being a juggler. My report was broken down into eight sections. That's eight balls to juggle and that's before you've even started to consider actually getting published. I've found during this first attempt at novel writing I haven't managed to keep hold of all eight of those juggling balls. You begin to think you've got into the swing of it but then you drop one and have to start all over again. But the only way you'll learn to juggle all eight is to pick them up and try again... Or study the one you keep dropping. That's what I'm planning on doing whilst I take stock.


  1. It's a rare writer that gets it right first time. I'm sure that you will learn from the report and go on to publication.

    I have to ask....what is 'tagging'? (wondering if Im doing it right now!)

  2. I knew it wasn't ready which is why this is so helpful. Tagging is he said/she said. I took out too many and left the reader wondering who was talking ;-)

  3. That is SO fantastic - the New Writers' scheme is worth its weight in gold. My critique a few years ago opened my eyes to so many fab points and I still reread it now to remind me of things!

    PS - You must be the only person in the world who under tags, LOL! :)

  4. Good for you! Sounds like a really comprehensive report. I love it when someone can pinpoint where/how a book needs to be fixed, and it can be so frustrating when you just can't figure it out yourself!

    I had this with Mad, Bad & Dangerous, didn't know what to do to make it work, and eventually I sent it to my editor (who's really good at this kind of thing) and she pointed out things that in retrospect were really obvious! My heroine was extremely abrasive, but we both agreed that softening her up would be a betrayal of her character. My editor suggested that perhaps if I explained more about how and why she became the way she did, readers would have more sympathy for her. Lightbulb moment!

  5. Thank you, Talli & Kate. It really is worth it's weight in gold. Need to decide if I attack this one again or start another but going to do some reading/research first to reflect a bit more.

    PS: And Talli, I must be the only writer who can't do their where/were, they're/their/there still. Always miss one. Dyslexic blindness ;)

  6. Congrats, Catherine. I know it wasn't everything you'd want to hear. I empathise with the 'telling' and the 'passive' - I do it too. But this sort of feedback is great early on, gives you some work to do, but at least you know when you're finished with this book, it will be much better and ready for submitting. Good luck. Sounds like it's only a matter of time ;-)

  7. Thanks, Teresa! I've been referring to this as my practice novel and it's true because I have learnt an awful lot. This feels a bit like the first year at Uni and at least I've passed! Now to concentrate on next year!

  8. How exciting to receive this sort of feedback,and really valuable advice for the future.

    Do you belong to a critique group Katy? I find it really useful when other writers give me constructive feedback. Interestingly, listening to other writers WIP read aloud really helps with my own writing too.

    I find it a really efficient way to write better, and generally improve, even though I often return needing to do a complete re-write.

    Sounds like you got a good reader who was objective and fair. You're on your way to better writing...

  9. I don't belong to a critique group as I haven't found one close to me that I can attend, Maria. Beginning to think it would be useful though! x

  10. Maybe you will have to start one yourself... :)

  11. Catherine, I am so pleased that you have had the feedback so quickly (no more waiting and wondering) and there is much that you can learn from it, so it is very positive. You have been so upbeat throughout and that the reader wishes you well is shown in the detail of the advice that has been given. Don't ever feel down by the critique. I know that this novel will be a huge success when it is ready and you know that the Writing Buddies and I will be there for support when you need it. Thank you for sharing your critique with the world :) Good luck with the tweaking!

  12. That sounds fab! I want to join the scheme next year! Well done :)

  13. This is really interesting, Catherine. As well as the positive comments indicating you'll be fine in due course, there are obviously some specifics which will get you started on the next round of editing.

    I love your sense that you agree with what's been said and aim to implement the advice. On a much smaller scale I had that with a short story, amended and sold it. Then the critique for my children's novel pointed to lots, and I agreed, and am getting round to it. I truly believe that a good professional critique is worth a huge amount. So well done and best of luck with it. Keep us up-to-date at Writing Buddies!

  14. Thank you for the comments, Penny, Clare and Jacqueline. This has been so worthwhile and has given me a lot of insight.

  15. That fact you are so upbeat by the report shows you are committed and have staying power; less stronger personalities would give up. The first book is always a huge learning curve. Suggest putting it away for several weeks/months and start another using the advice and lessons learnt before going back and reworking, if at all. Most first novels lurk in writers drawers. Good luck and most of all continue to enjoy what you do.