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Friday, January 05, 2007

What Critics Said About FireHeart

Recorded from DigitalWebbing Forum

My apologies for those who didn't want their comments blogged, but since I consider this very valuable I thought I'd rather keep it in my blog (before Digital Webbing erased that thread)
This is what they said. You're welcome to judge my work yourself.

Critics 1:
From reading your first chapter excerpt I can seen that you're clearly a fan of quest fantasy. Your writing is easy to read and has a style. However, you have a long, long way to go. I know that sounds harsh, but writing a novel, especially a fantasy novel, takes a lot of effort and skill that isn't easy to develop and can only be done through rewrite after rewrite.

To me the world had a stock feeling to it. I know fantasy shares common elements, but the characters, the seedy bar, setting up characters through a fight, its all things I've read a dozen times before. It’s not to say that you can't use those, you just have to find ways to make it your own.

I personally didn't like the simi-annoymous second person perspective of "The Boy," "The Man." Characters are the most important aspect of any novel and you want to give readers a reason to like them right off, and I don't think that this set up does that.

Your point of view changes at least three times during the opening setup, we go from following the boy to one line that's first person to following this man. It’s confusing and doesn't really set up anything.

First lines are important, and yours doesn't make me want to read on.

You need to set up the crux of your story in the first chapter. From the opening pages of Game of Thrones I know its going to be a succession struggle. In Harry Potter its evident the kid is special from the opening scene. Neil Gaiman wastes no time setting up American Gods. You have got to get whatever your story is about quickly and effective and from reading the first few pages of your book I'm not sure what your story is thematically about.

My overall impressions is it sounds like the beginning of a D&D quest, and while that's interesting to some people, you need to do it better than R.A. Salvatore, and that’s hard, because he's damned good at what he does. I think you need to make it more unique if you ever want to see it published in any form.

I'm always looking for more aspiring fantasy writers to correspond with, so if you want to keep chatting send me a PM.

my reply:

well, I admit that I just began my journey and I have a long, long way to go. and as I don't have enough to start with, I might just get my efforts going and enjoy the ride. I put the 'reader's curiosity-maker' part at the end of the first chapter and go on with the second and third chapters.

what I really need is a good editor I can work with, because I honestly don't have a clue at all of how to make a bigger impression in my first chapter than the one I've written already.

I really don't have a clue on how to satisfy what my readers want from a story that is so basic as mine, and I have so little time to do that because of my responsibilities (especially the financial ones).

So, please tell me, do I have to improve on my first chapter only or write this story all over again?

FYI, it took me one year and four months to finish the first book, and another six months to edit and re-edit that before I can proceed to the second part.

I really appreciate your kind comments, that's really very valuable for me.


Reply From Scribe :

I don't think that you're ready to work with an editor yet. Finding an independent editor isn't easy and its not cheap. You're probably better off finding a critic group of writings, aspiring or otherwise, and getting some good solid feedback

I'd also recommend reading some books on writing, I recommend Stephen King's On Writing and Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. These are two books that helped me a good deal.

My advice is to just do draft after draft. I've written five novels that have not, and will not, see the light of day. Then, when you feel like you're ready start going to writing conference and start meeting professional editors, agents and writers.

I know a year and a half seems like a lot of time, but to the publishing industry, especially in fantasy, its not. JK Rowling took five years to write Harry Potter and still got rejected by 23 agents and seven publishers. Its a long road, most of it is by yourself, and its important not to get discouraged. There is no such thing as your "last attempt." Writers get better with age, not worse. Don't stress the shit and just write.

My reply:

Yup, guess I'll keep researching and researching, expanding beyond my limits. Thanks for your sharing, though.

Well the 'Paladins' series is a pretty basic thing, I must admit. I wrote this just for fun, to satisfy my ideas of 'Hey, why don't someone make a basic thing for once?'

If I can't sell it just yet, at least the blog will suffice for now. Even if it takes five or ten years, I will see my writings in the light of day, not in the undergrounds anymore.

Well, I got my copy of Stephen King's On Writing, but I haven't finished reading it....



Critics 2:
Um, Thraxx? Lots of writers manage to write well fleshed out characters without writing a character synopsis, so it's only an unavoidable task if you are the kind of writer who needs to not avoid it.

Vadis --I find reading the posted exerpt very awkward, and I find the prose distancing. It is written in the present tense, which is extremely unusual and tends to draw attention to itself. And it is also written in omniscient which is slightly less unusual, but still uncommon nowadays, and which also draws attention to itself.

I would never try to tell someone that they should *not* write in present tense or omniscient, but I am wondering if you made those choices on purpose and if so, what your reasons are? Because I don't see any reasons for such unusal choices in the bit of the story that I have seen.

If you want to keep the omnscient pov, I think you need to work a bit more on giving the narrator a distinctive and interesting voice. At the moment the narrator's voice is very bland, which can work in third, where the narrator becomes essentially invisible, but omniscient narrators just aren't invisible to the average reader, no matter what.

If you don't know what I'm talking about when I start going on about present tense, omniscient narratation and pov, please do ask. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is familiar with technical writing terminology as my writer friends are.

And, um, not to be cruel, but...
The usual advice given to writers is: If you can possibly not write, then you probably shouldn't.

For me it doesn't matter how badly I write or how long it is taking me to "become a success", (It has taken me 13 years to become a "neo-pro", and I still haven't sold a book), because the stories come to me whether I want them to or not, and they demand to be told. When I stop writing, I become miserable. The sales are nice, but even without them, I would be a writer... I have no choice in the matter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LavenderBard
Um, Thraxx? Lots of writers manage to write well fleshed out characters without writing a character synopsis, so it's only an unavoidable task if you are the kind of writer who needs to not avoid it.



I meant that it's a must if you're unsure about your characters and need to define them clearly. I found that it's the method that works for me, maybe you don't need it. I've actually set it aside once I started writing, and never go back to it for reference, but it proved a good exercise to make the characters "stick" in my mind so I know exactly how the character will act/react.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LavenderBard
For me it doesn't matter how badly I write or how long it is taking me to "become a success", (It has taken me 13 years to become a "neo-pro", and I still haven't sold a book), because the stories come to me whether I want them to or not, and they demand to be told. When I stop writing, I become miserable. The sales are nice, but even without them, I would be a writer... I have no choice in the matter.


Totally agree with you there. It's a calling. If it's not enjoyable and you can put it down, then you probably should. If it's not enjoyable but you can't help it, you're probably on the right track. It is a hard-work/low-benefit life, but if you can't help writing, eventually you'll get better even if your "talent" isn't that great.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thraxx
I meant that it's a must if you're unsure about your characters and need to define them clearly. I found that it's the method that works for me, maybe you don't need it. I've actually set it aside once I started writing, and never go back to it for reference, but it proved a good exercise to make the characters "stick" in my mind so I know exactly how the character will act/react.


I have different character problems than lack of depth. :rueful look: Assuming the reader will understand my characters as well as I do tops the list... it can *look* like lack of depth from the other side, but its actually just sloppy writing. "Why did your character do x?" "Well that's because of [explanation], of course." "You never *told* us about [explanation]." "Oh. Oops!"


Here's another hint from the "needs to work on a character to make them rounded contingent" though. For peple who find that filling out a questionaire is too mechanical or otherwise doesn't work for them, try Zelazny's trick. He would write a scene that would *not* appear in the story... that happened, in fact, *before* the story, but that centered around some vital aspect of that character tha did appear in the story. Coming up with the vital aspect and the scene forced him to put the thinking into the character that was needed to make the character real. (And at least once the scene turned into a short story that he subsequently sold -- or so they tell me.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thraxx
but if you can't help writing, eventually you'll get better even if your "talent" isn't that great.


10% "talent" and 90% hard work.



Quote:
Originally Posted by LAvenderBard
For people who find that filling out a questionaire is too mechanical or otherwise doesn't work for them, try Zelazny's trick. He would write a scene that would *not* appear in the story... that happened, in fact, *before* the story, but that centered around some vital aspect of that character tha did appear in the story. Coming up with the vital aspect and the scene forced him to put the thinking into the character that was needed to make the character real. (And at least once the scene turned into a short story that he subsequently sold -- or so they tell me.)



That is a good method, I guess I'll apply it and see if it works for me..

About talent, Newton (I think) said: it's 1% inspiration, 99% transpiration...


Wow, thanks guys...

Looks like since I'm the narrator of this story - actually the 'god' in this world is Vadis, and it's my nickname - I found it very appopriate to write in present tense. Although the real reason is I should've written in past tense like all professional fantasy writers do.

As I'm not quite well-informed in Professional Writing Standards and as Scribe said - never took a formal lesson, and at first I wrote FireHeart for my own pleasure and hobby and then share it with others, while coping with my own business, so please pardon the blandness and the 'unappealingness' because of my lack of vocabulary.

Honestly, I'm reading David Eddings now and his very 'grand' language is giving me headaches more than entertainment.

But above all that, I'll keep polishing this again and again while keeping my business together, and you'll hear more from me, mark my words.

May the sun shines upon you and the earth gives you life - BJ Vadis


Quote:
Originally Posted by vadis
Looks like since I'm the narrator of this story - actually the 'god' in this world is Vadis, and it's my nickname - I found it very appopriate to write in present tense. Although the real reason is I should've written in past tense like all professional fantasy writers do.


If you are trying to write as the voice of a god, you should choose what you say and how you say it so that it conveys the *personality* of that god. Right now you sound vaguely like a history professor -- because you stop the action regularly to give us a mini-digression on the political and economic background of the setting.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vadis
Sso please pardon the blandness and the 'unappealingness' because of my lack of vocabulary.



Er...
I never said that the blandness was due to a lack of vocabularly.

When I brought up the question of vocabularly, I was trying to find out if I was speaking in a way that was comprehesible to you. It had nothing to do with what you had written at all.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vadis
Honestly, I'm reading David Eddings now and his very 'grand' language is giving me headaches more than entertainment.


So, um... *why* are you reading Eddings?
Quote:
Originally Posted by vadis
But above all that, I'll keep polishing this again and again


If that's what you want to do, I wish you every success in the endeavor.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LavenderBard
because the stories come to me whether I want them to or not, and they demand to be told. When I stop writing, I become miserable. The sales are nice, but even without them, I would be a writer... I have no choice in the matter.


That's what happened to me too...


Well that's why I'm reading Eddings. I personally find the way he narrates things fascinating. But I just want to follow the way I narrate: "I tell what I saw and what I heard". Anything that pops out from my mind, I tell it straightaway without pondering much about "Will my readers like it?" or "How shoud I tell this thing according to the writing standards in U.K. or America?"
My style is not American, and not U.K. It's... my style or no style at all.
Just pure, simple story.

Just go with the flow and forget the turn-offs and go with the action.
ACTION!

Categories: Forum, Study, Publishers, Fireheart, Critics, Research

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