Last spring I entered my first novel contest with Critique My Novel.
I didn’t win, but as I looked over my results I’m pretty pleased. End of Mae is my first book, and honestly I had no clue as to what I was doing. I’m excited to move on and see what else I can do. To rank where I did I am thrilled. Here’s the results – what do you think?
I could give you a blow by blow of all the scores but that would go on forever, so I’ll just share what the judges said. They each had excellent insight and critique and I will be considering what they said as I move forward with my career. Here’s their comments:
-Having the character’s name so many times becomes distracting when Mae is the only character; use pronouns more instead of her name. (Where there is another character, you can use her name more to keep them straight when needed.) Having her name every (or every other) line is too many. (There are 6 in one paragraph on pg. 11, two of them in one sentence!)
-When Miss Prym first woke Mae up for dinner, I felt that Mae overreacted. For all she knew Prym could be a nurse who was helping her. Once they begin fighting, Prym’s true nature comes out, but I didn’t think Mae should be so hateful at first, unless she senses something. She notices cold stares and unfriendly face, but
So there needs to be more that pushes her to act out so violently.
-Great job getting drop into the perceptions and POV of each character.
A chilling beginning.
Thanks for allowing me to read part of your novel.
Great story; I wish I could have read more of it.
Some of your scenes stretch a bit long. When she’s almost dead, that seems to carry for a very long time.
Show what she senses from the maid who is coming in to help her. She obviously senses the evil before we see any proof of it, so let us in a bit earlier. Otherwise Mae seems to be flipping out for no reason.
Your story is well-written (always room for improvement, of course) and rather intriguing. I’m curious to find out more about these characters and wonder how Mae is going to get out of this predicament (seems like she’s indebted to the devil now). I actually think it should just begin with her waking up to Prym… just an idea. Weave some of the more enticing details from what happened that brought her there (like the man saying she must live) later on. Overall I’d say you have a marvelous story in the making here.
• Setting: The setting of the opening scene is very hard to visualize. I was imagining it taking place in an alley or something, beneath a streetlight. Later it is said that it happened in the woods. Add more details to make the setting clearer and easier for readers to visualize.
• Description and detail: This story could use a lot more. Slip them in here and there. Show us what
Mae and these creatures look like. Bea’s description was pretty great, but I want to see other characters as well. Especially the thing that attacked her. What does he look like in the light? Those details should be given as soon as she really sees him for the first time.
• What exactly is she looking for in the beginning? Give more details about the rumor or whatever.
It’s awesome that she’s looking for a good story—that bit is believable—but what led her to that particular place? I feel like readers would be more intrigued if they heard just a few more details about the story she’s looking to write about.
• It’s really hard to visualize the events of the story at times as well; it forces readers to go back and read through it again. Make sure the events in the story—the actions—are written clearly and simply so that your readers never feel lost.
• It throws me off a bit how much you have body parts doing the acting, instead of the owner of the body parts doing it. Example: Red eyes stared… In some cases it’s okay—good even—but I think it’s in there a little too much and I would highly recommend changing some out for: He stared at her body with his red eyes.
• Show don’t tell. Give us little details. What about his body makes it perfect? Be precise, but not overbearing. Paint a masterpiece with words.
• Consider implementing more pronouns; it’s distracting how many times Mae’s name appears when it could be a simple “she” instead in a lot of instances.
• But also be careful when using pronouns. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who, or what, is being referred to. Read through to catch places where this occurs.
• At times it’s difficult to differentiate between what’s metaphorically happening, and what’s literally happening. (Was her heart really torn to shreds?)
• Take time—a sentence or two—to introduce each character as soon as they come in. Give us a way to identify them (unique characteristic, a name, etc.) so that we can easily keep track of them.
I like the character more as time goes on, but at the beginning I don’t really feel very emotionally attached to her. I’ve only barely just met her when she’s suddenly in a very bad situation. I sort of feel like
I’ve come into the story in the middle. Your story seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with the legend of the Jersey Devil, which is probably not the case with many readers. Think about how to address that early on. And is either the master or the servant actually the Jersey Devil? Once she gets caught, that whole thing gets dropped and leaves me wondering.
Great action writing, but the pace seems a little unrealistic. The scene keeps rapidly changing. The beginning in particular moves a little too fast—I’m not really emotionally involved yet in the story when the big action starts. Also, make sure that you read over your story again to check for consistency. For example, when the creature attacks Mae, “a dark blur shot out of the box,” but then a little later “whatever held her was coming out of the box.” Wasn’t it already out of the box? When the story doesn’t quite fit together smoothly, it really distracts the reader from the storyline. There are also pretty frequent grammar and spacing issues (particularly two words that are missing the space between them) that need to be fixed.