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Feedback on the attached high school novel

Feedback on the attached high school novel

I'm currently working on a high school novel called The Lone Traveller(manuscript attached) but I feel like it's missing something. Care to give feedback?I'm only a first-timer in the school novel/romance scene, please give feedback to help me, writing senpais.
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File Type: docx The Lone Traveller.docx (31.2 KB, 0 views)

Well, off the first page? Work on your grammar.

The spelling seems fine enough, but there's no excuse at all for having sentences truncated the way you've truncated them... it's the reading equivalent of watching an engine sputter. Now, there are times that can be an effective literary technique- such as writing a nervous, stuttering, or unfocused individual, but it's an advanced technique that I'd warn people against until they have more experience under their belt.

I'd also recommend only double-spacing between paragraphs instead of the whole thing. Most people find that easier to read.

In general, you need to do a lot less rambling in the writing... there's this thing known as "information density", in which one of the goals of any storyteller is to get as much information and meaning into every sentence as possible. The ultimate example being the six word novel attributed to Hemingway. Nobody can quite determine if it's his or not, but it is attributed to him.

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Now, you can't be expected to do that (there's a reason it's considered the ultimate example), but it's a direction to strive for. Short, powerful, and as much meaning as you can possibly get.

THIS is your first page... your prologue, which should be the most packed bit of material in your story by far.

"Admit it. You and I, we both had the same adolescence. In fact, adolescence is just a formula. The only difference is in how we handle it. Adolescence is like a 12-year prison sentence that all of us must serve. The guards locking us in are our peers, our parents, our teachers, and most importantly, ourselves. But like most prison sentences, we would be released once our time is up. Whether we commit suicide in prison, get slapped with a life sentence or eventually get released is all based on our actions. Adolescence is also a journey. Some of us undertake it as lone travellers, while others find companions along the way, allies that accompany us through it all. Of course, there are also the adventurer parties that trundle through, leave signs but usually don’t get anywhere. Some of us stand on what we think are the shoulders of giants but these “giant shoulders” eventually crumble to dust, leaving the unlucky ones to fall to deeper depths than anyone can ever imagine. Others act like paper tigers, developing façades of power that collapse into rubble the moment of its first strike. It’s like a parabola really."

196 words, more than half of which do nothing but take up space.

How I would fix it, while keeping your language style.

"Adolescence is a 12-year prison sentence that all of us must serve, with ourselves as the guards. Whether we commit suicide in prison, get slapped with a life sentence, or get released is all based on our actions.

Adolescence is a journey. Some undertake it as lone travellers, while others find companions that accompany us. Some attempt to stand on the shoulders of giants, leaving the unlucky to fall. Others develop façades of power that collapse into rubble when challenged.

It’s a parabola."


Your 196 is now down to 83, and I could slim it further if I wanted, but doing so would be to write it in *my* style instead of *yours*.

Next thing to remember: qualifiers do more harm than good- words like "sometimes, maybe, occasionally, perhaps, almost" and almost everything ending in "ly", as well as plenty of others. They (tend to) weaken the language of the story, muddy the waters, and make the story read like it's either uncertain of itself, or too certain of itself. Both directions being literary poison.

Don't get me wrong- there are (absolutely) ways to make them work in the narrative, but those are (usually) advanced techniques to take on after you've mastered the basics. As a rule, avoid them (where possible).

Except in dialogue itself. The qualifiers are a(n amazing) way to add personality to characters. Confident characters use powerful qualifiers like "never" and "always". Uncertain characters use words like "maybe" and "I think".

... Next up, the "saidisms". Or "Said bookisms", if you prefer. Type that into a search engine, see if you can find anyone with positive things to say about saidisms.

Saidisms are bad, mmm'kay?

Take your dialogue...

(character enters)

“Err... hey. I…I’m h-here for the D-D&D group. Is this the place?” he enquired with an awkward stammer.
“You’ve come to the right place. What’s your name?” I replied.
“Aloysius. You?” he responded.
“I’m Samuel. Nice to meet you.” I answered.
“Are you just a player or the Dungeon Master?” Aloysius asked.
“I’m a regular player. This store hires an in-house DM.” I explained.

My fix...

He stood there, looking more out of place by the second until he (finally- in this case this qualifier could be useful, if you want to make the narrating character seem impatient) spoke up: “Err... hey. I…I’m h-here for the D-D&D group. Is this the place?”

I tried to put him at ease with a smile. “You’ve come to the right place. What’s your name?”

“I'm Aloysius." (insert reaction to attempt at ease-putting) "What's your name?"

"Samuel." (interpretation/response- perhaps step closer, or back off from, Aloysius... also, it'd make a whole lot of sense to have a reaction to the name "Aloysius"- is it *normal* in this setting to have names that sound like extinct lizards? Here's a great time to let the audience know.)

Aloysius looked around some more. “Are you a player or the Dungeon Master?” (I dropped the "just"- in this situation, 'just' is a synonym of 'merely'. It... comes across as dismissive, and this character's personality doesn't feel dismissive to me)

(Sam has mental dialogue responding to his thoughts of the newbie- perhaps feeling insulted by the whole 'just a player' line, if you keep it) “I’m a regular player. This store hires an in-house DM.”

(I'd then include a reaction to having a "hired in game DM". That is rare to the point of unheard of outside a convention. Volunteers, sure... but *hired*? I have personally never witnessed such a thing. Not to say it kills suspension of disbelief or anything- it doesn't- but it feels like the characters should at least be aware that it is an unusual thing. A simple line or two of

"Wait... hires?"

"Yeah, store owner's a massive geek. We're really lucky."

Is a lot of worldbuilding for a mere two lines.


Personally, I think skipping the gaming session entirely was a massive mistake. Here you have an opportunity to show a wide variety of characters interacting, having fun, and displaying their personalities... and you skipped (almost) all of it.

Here, have an example of how I went about making a D&D game interesting.

I'd give you an example from someone else... but as far as I know, I'm the only person who's ever tried. You tell me how close I got.


Aaand I think that's enough to start with. You also *really* need to find different voices for your characters. They all use the same basic language patterns, without any real personality in their dialogue. But that's a skill that many don't even know they should work on, and few can do right.

I'm going to partially disagree with two points, Tana.

1. Saidisms are not bad, and they do not need to be avoided at all costs. However, when you use them, roughly 75% should be "said". The mind skips over "said" in an interesting way. Use that. The time to go to other options is when your instinct is to use "said" with an adverb. Never use an adverb in a dialogue tag. Never.

When you have two people talking, you can skip tags that offer nothing more than "said", except that you shouldn't do so for more than three exchanges. When you have more people involved, every line should be tagged in some fashion until you're so good at differentiating voices that no one ever gets confused (hint: that won't happen anytime soon).

2. The document is almost formatted correctly for submission. I wouldn't submit it to anyone at this stage, but when you're ready, learn how to use Styles in Word (or whatever your word processor) instead of using tabs or spaces for your first line indent. The double-spacing is standard and fine. Do not use block-quote format to submit a novel unless the agent or publisher you're submitting to specifically asks for it.

You can totally write in some other format, though. I write in block quote format because it facilitates the method I use for ebook conversion. When you use Styles, changing the formatting for different purposes is quite simple.

I'll add two more points, and a note.

1. Grammar, which you're shaky on but an editor can help you with, isn't enough. You have to learn craft. Craft doesn't come from writing a lot. Craft comes from writing, getting input on style/grammar/phrasing, incorporating said input, and writing more. Rinse and repeat. So my advice at this point is to take a few books you love and read the first chapter of each a few times. Each time you read it, watch for different things.

Which verbs did they use?
What's the sentence structure like?
How about paragraph structure?
How did it open, and why did that grab me?
How much description is there, and how is it offered?
What do I like the most about this opening?
What bothers me about this opening?

Add more questions if they occur to you. Think about these things and use the answers to massage your own style. Once you feel like you're pretty good, consult with a professional editor, and they'll tell you at least some of what you're still doing wrong. As you improve, the things you suck at will decrease, but there will always be something. You'll never be a perfect writer, because no one is ever a perfect writer. That's why we have these things called Editing and Revision.

2. There is no right or wrong length for chapters. That said, there are some generally accepted conventions that most folks follow. Action stories have short chapters, drama stories have long chapters. Romance tends to have medium-length chapters, sometimes with section breaks for POV shifts within a scene.

For a book that's neither action nor drama, and there's no compelling, specific reason to go with any particular length, shoot for chapters around 1500-2000 words in length, without worrying about some being longer or shorter. That's long enough for a meaty scene, but not long enough to lose a reader's attention. If you're aiming for 60k in length, which is respectable for any genre except middle grade or younger, that'll get you 30-45 chapters, which is quite reasonable.

*The dreaded final note.

“Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.” --Jane Smiley

It's worth saying that no one writes a good first novel. No one. Not even Neil Gaiman or Stephen King did it. It doesn't happen. All of us have a terrible novel tucked in a dank, dark folder, either real or electronic, which houses our first attempt at writing a book. The key thing a first novel teaches you is that you're capable of writing a novel. Maybe you'll take that first draft of the first novel and use what you learn as you go to write a better novel. Or maybe you'll stick in a folder and move on to something else entirely. Either way, keep your expectations low, and don't trust anyone who tells you it's good without additional feedback.

Trust people who say things like:

"This has some good ideas."
"Great plot."
"I love this character."
"You've got a real knack for [dialogue/metaphor/description/whatever]."
"I really like how you [did a specific thing]."

Those are the folks who care and want to help you improve.

Good luck.

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