I had an interesting letter waiting for me when I got home today, from Fish Publishing regarding my entry of the first 5,000 words of their Unpublished Novel award. It’s obviously a courtesy idea to try and sell their critique service, and I have to say it might have worked – I am tempted…

The spelling and grammar is their’s, not mine:

Interesting synopsis. Ben comes across more vividly than Helen. You do use detail to good effect but the detail starts to slow the action down and become dull. I know you are describing an agonizingly boring time for Ben – it is effective but just a little overdone.

I don’t understand the structure. In the beginning the quick intercutting from Helen to Ben creates tension but then is suddenly dropped. Why not take Helen’s story up to her disappearance. Presumably everything is know to the searchers up to this point. (You don’t mention that her companions are also missing). The scene at the waterfall is hard to understand. Then suddenly we are back in one of Ben’s memories of his sister. Then Helen alone. All very choppy. In general the writing is good – and the characters convincing. It is the structure and the way in which you unfold the plot that needs work.

Very promising. Good luck with it.

Aside from the line, which I’m sure should have read: I know you are describing an agonizing time for Ben, I think this is pretty fair and constructive criticism. And there is this perennial thing about the structure: the third person, present tense, filmic style of short, intercutting scenes (which has been a concious decision) has been criticised and loved in equal measure by drowned_books, soulsong and freshfordlass (that’s me mum, though she doesn’t write in it!). It works very well when it works, but it can confuse. It’s a style that I am going to persevere with, but I must watch myself, and I must edit and revise and draft again carefully. More than that, I must give it to people to read, and I must give it to new people to read, and hopefully, when I have the measure of my style, it will work…

Failing that, of course I can attempt to restructure it completely into a more ‘conventional’ read…!!