I’ve had my second reading test failure on my work at YouWriteOn, which surprises me because if anything I thought my questions were too easy. Would someone with an account over there mind going in far enough into the review process and copying the pasting the reading test I set into a comment here so that I can remind myself of the questions set (I can’t edit/see the test myself whilst I have reading assignments assigned, and if I log out I can’t get in…)
The guy in question though, seemed to like the work enough though (which makes it even more strange that he failed the reading test) to send me his review in an email, after visiting my site and snouting around for contact details (he used my livejournal address in the end), with his review in. Some interesting points raised there:
I couldn’t pass the test, but here’s my review anyway. My handle on the YouWriteOn website is BillJustBill.
I looked at your website before reading your entry, so I read the one review you quoted. You have to be careful whom you credit with knowing what they’re talking about when you receive these reviews. That, of course, goes double for me.
You write very well, so I don’t have to spend any words telling you that.
I think it’s something of a beginner error, believing that you have to include every tiny detail. Perhaps it’s a leftover from writing scripts. But the sentence “Taking a water bottle from a side pocket she pulls free a stopper and puts the neck to her lips and quenches her thirst with cold, fresh, mountain water.” Why not just this: Taking a water bottle from a side pocket she quenches her thirst with cold, fresh, mountain water. This is, after all, the point. I won’t mention this type of thing again, but you might want to look at your ms. for this.
The back and forth happens way too quickly, and on the written page, there are no visual clues, as there would be in a visual script. Is there a real, significant reason for the very quick cuts? This is really a problem for the reader. If the scenes were longer between the cuts it would work fine. I’m surprised you haven’t a better ear for this, as well as you write.
Suggestion: Each one of the scenes end with a little note of tension, i.e.,Helen takes careful steps . . . This could really be the whole first scene with Helen. Fiction should gives the reader the feeling of anticipation and uncertainty. Of course, you could also use subheads to indicate to the reader, i.e. “Ben” and then “Helen” or something like that. It’s another approach.
offering sporadic words, — I know what you mean. There’s a better way of saying it.
further possibilities.— what’s the difference between this and just “possibilities”?
End of Chapter 1, the long scene with Ben in bed. How much of this is it important for the reader to know in order for the story to keep moving forward? For example, this paragraph: He replaces the magazine on the bedside cabinet and slowly lets his fingers throw the switch on the lamp. The room sinks into Icelandic summer darkness – a washed-out colourless light. Lying on his side he curls his legs up under him, squeezes his eyes shut and tries to sleep.
I think a good idea is to omit all filler.
End of chapter 2, rather than leave us on a note of tension, once again we have Ben going to sleep. Not too exciting, that. How about something that makes us want to turn the page? Beginning of Chapter 3, we have Ben waking up. Do we have to know all this?
There’s a very useful technique called starting a scene as deeply into it as you can. This really adds a lot of dramatic interest, and you should study how to do it and then apply it to this ms. It would help move things along.
I think another error often made by the less experience writer is trying to paint a too nuanced picture. For example, second to last
line: Ben stops. He turns slowly, twisting round first on his hips, then by the souls of his feet. (By the way, it would soles of his feet in the U.S.)
Why not just put the period after he turns slowly?