Have you written a novel and wondered if it’s ready to be published? Or do you have a synopsis and the beginning of a novel that you’d like someone to evaluate, to tell you if you’re headed in the right direction before you spend the next six months perfecting it? Or, would you like a professional to give you advice on how to improve your writing?
There’s a way.
How would you like to get feedback in the following areas of your novel by three different judges–all of whom are professional published authors?
Stakes: The Stakes of the scene are the elements that make the story gripping. They may be personal, or public, but they are comprised of the setting the right mood of the book, establishing the goals of the character for the scene, as well as the long term goals, and includes an element of risk should they not be met.
_____Does the mood of the book match the genre of the story? (suspense/mystery/fantasy, women’s fiction, rom-com, romance, etc).
_____Do you know what the character wants in the story? (their goal or greatest dream?)
_____Do you know what is at stake or what is it being risked in the story?
_____Has the author shown us the character’s home life, so we know where their journey begins?
_____Has the author made you care about the outcome of the story?
The judges will tell you whether they would want to keep reading and why.
Hero/Heroine Identity: A great story is made up of great characters. But we will only read a book about a character we believe in – someone we identify with and care about. Hero/Heroine identity is about putting the lead character in a situation that makes us understand their perspectives, identify with their emotions, care about their goals, fear their conflicts and believe in their dreams.
_____Has the lead been put in a situation you can relate to as a reader?
_____Does the lead have a strong sense of identity, so that the reader understands the kind of person he/she is and what they are good at?
_____Do you have a hint at the lead’s greatest fear?
_____Do you have a hint of the character’s spiritual lie?
_____Do you care about this character?
The judges will tell you if they cared about your character(s) and why.
Anchoring: Great stories have a strong sense of place – and the reader knows from the first page where the novel is set. More than that, a great novel employs the use of storyworld – the 5 W’s, the 5 Senses, and active verbs and specific nouns to convey the world in which the characters live.
_____ Facts: Does the Author convey Who is in the scene, Where and when the scene takes place, what is happening in the scene around them, and why they are there?
_____Feelings: Are there all five senses in the scene?
_____ Specifics: Does the author employ the use of other characters to add to the storyworld? Has the author used specific details unique to the time/place to bring the scene to life?
_____Emotions: Has the author employed the use of metaphor, or specific nouns and verbs to lend a feeling of emotion/mood to the scene?
_____Did the author draw you into the Storyworld?
The judges will tell you whether you’ve created a great Storyworld.
Starting on the Run: “A great book starts in the middle, retrieves the past, and continues onto the end” (Dwight Swain). Although we want the author to have a home world, even the home world needs to start with a compelling scene. On the Run means that the scene begins with a compelling sentence that gets us immediately into the POV of the character, and pulls us into a scene that has already started. Then, it give us just enough backstory – (what we at MBT call Backstory Breadcrumbs) to intrigue us, and hint (or start) the inciting incident by the end of the scene.
_____Did they start with a compelling, interesting first sentence?
_____Did they start in the middle of the action and put you right into the head of the character?
_____Have they dropped enough Backstory Breadcrumbs to intrigue you to read on? (but not so many that they slowed the story down?)
_____Did they hint at the inciting incident (or even accomplish it?) before the end of the scene?
_____Did they suck you into the first scene?
Do your prose draw the judges in?
Story Problem: The Story problem, or story question, is that big picture look at the theme of the story. It’s the question that drives the reader through the story on a thematic, even spiritual level. And it is delivered through the motivations of the character, the conflicts they face, the rhythm (or problems that arise after every scene), and even a question subtly raised by the character.
_____Does the author create enough motivation for their characters actions or goals? (hint: if you are constantly asking why would he/she do that, then probably there is not enough motivation).
_____Does the conflict seem natural, and derived out of the plot? (as opposed to contrived?)
_____Has the author ended the scene with a disaster, or something that makes the reader want to turn the page?
_____Has the author delivered a story question that will drive us through the book?
____Are you interested in the big-picture WHY of the story? (Why should I read this story? Rate your interest 1-5)
The judges will tell you if they want to keeping reading. Why or why not.
Voice fundamentals: Every story, to be readable, must have sufficient understanding of the mechanics of writing. How many times does a reader close a book because of shifts of POV, or overwriting, or even long passages of telling? So, just like in the bookstore when you run into poor writing, you might put the book down, this is the “Close the book” section.
_____Point of View – did the author stay clearly in one POV?
_____Clarity – is the writing clear and understandable (as opposed to clunky or filled with strange words and constructions?)
_____Overwriting – did the author overwrite? (repeating sentences or concepts over and over in order to prove their point?)
_____Telling versus Showing – Did the author show the emotions of the scene rather than tell them?
____The delivery of the story was smooth and engaging.
Feedback on these remarks is invaluable.
My Favorite Sentences:
I love this part. The judges tell you their favorites sentences.
HERE’S HOW TO GET THIS CRITIQUE:
If you’re a writer than your goal is to get readers to read your work. Right? So why not enter a contest and get a critique? Who knows, you could win $500 toward one of Susie’s infamous writing retreats. Or get noticed by professional agents and publishers.
Several years ago one of my novels won an HONORABLE MENTION. That’s a great line in my bio when I’m selling my experience. Some writers have received contracts from agents and publishers based on their entries. That could be you.
Here are a few more perks to consider:
- You’ll get instant feedback
- Build your confidence
- Tell you what you’re doing right
- Help you improve your writing quicker
- Force you to write the dreaded synopsis
- Force you to write to a deadline
- Get others to notice you
- The therapists at MBT will show you how to take your writing to the next level