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.
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.