Looking from the outside

The topic I gave my creative writing class for our next meeting was ‘review’, preferable to write a review of one of their own pieces, but if not to review something else – book, film, TV programme,  I don’t mind. I hoped that even if they didn’t actually write about their own work it would help them think critically about what they write. They are all good writers, very good in some cases, but some of them complete something and that is it, they don’t play around with it to see if they can make it any better. I guess because I am writing for an audience, not myself I do a lot of editing, rewriting, reworking, and try lots of different ways to be objective about what I’ve written.

However, I have never actually done what I have asked them to do… I have never written critically about my own work… I have written here to promote it, but never written about it critically, objectively! I don’t usually do the exercises I set my group – I feel that it is their time not mine!

As I am working on my next novel, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ which is complete but just needs serious, serious editing, and massive pruning, I will put my mind to writing objectively about it – there are genuinely lots of things i could criticise in it, and a few things I could praise!

So what would I write, what points would I make? here are a few points I’ll be considering, criticisms first:

  • over written – a hundred words are used where ten would do
  • too much detail – every little action/thought/word of the characters is included; less is much, much more, and a more refined choice of what to include
  • too much emotion – yes a lot of emotional things happen to the characters, death of a beloved grandma, loss of a partner to another, difficult relations between parents and children/husbands and wives, betrayal, new love, lost love… but I need to cut out a lot of the tears and weeping! The reader needs to understand the difficulties, not have everyone written about in minute detail
  • more description of settings – it’s not a drama where the audience can see the scenery, I need to tell them what they are seeing!
  • there are some surprises in the story – surprises for the characters and for the readers; however, in order for the reader to believe the unexpected could have happened, is not just a random whim, there needs to be some back story to the events which has to be told later in order for it to be a surprise! Some of these are quite long ‘memories’ of a particular character, and sometimes it isn’t clear that what happened is a past not a current event
  • language… I have fallen into my own trap and used current language for the young people in the story… I wrote this part several years ago, and language has changed, gone out of fashion! I’ve always told my group to be careful of using slang, it dates so quickly!

Positives:

  • there is plenty of action and movement – it isn’t just people in endless conversations and falling out with each other over inheritances… there is a holiday-home scam, gangsters, people-trafficking, bands and gigs, OCD… There are lots of plot lines not connected with the characters as family
  • Considering there are a lot of characters, the way they are introduced reduces the muddle there might be if there are loads of names thrust at the reader all at once. The main character is an outsider who meets them for the first time when they are all staying at grandma’s very large house for Christmas, and at first she identifies them by associating their names with something else – Ruby has red hair, Alison has blond hair like Alice in Wonderland, Carla looks boyish so is remembered as Carl/Carla, in the first scenes the twins are usually together – they don’t live near each other so being together for Christmas they are usually with each other so it’s always Nick and Tyrone – almost as a couple
  • the different story-lines interweave, but the ‘outsider’ is always there to give perspective and allow for an objective view and explanation

Now I have to write this out to share with the writing group on Monday!!

If you haven’t read any of my novels, here is a link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_9?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsd%2Caps%2C150

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