fiction | writing

The Critique

what doesn't

I’m sitting here staring at the cursor with flashes of words on how to start this post running through my head. You see I received the feedback from my mentor on the first draft (or rough second edit) of my novel the other day, and as much as I would love to say she  thought it was guaranteed to be a best-seller, that’s not the news I have to tell.

The feedback was realistic, truthful and in all honesty  somewhat expected. My novel needs work. A whole hell of a lot of work!

When I originally finished the first draft I was so thrilled. I was on such a high that had an agent or publisher have contacted me (not that they would have, or did, or will) but I would have enthusiastically handed over my first draft ready to receive all the accolades. Thank God that didn’t happen (and on a side note I’m not really that silly, just trying to set the scene).

It was upon reading and doing a very light edit of the first draft that I realized there were major flaws. Not little crevices here and there but major gaping chasms big enough to swallow a herd of mammoths. My story seemed to be going nowhere. Actually no, that’s not entirely true, it was going somewhere, round in circles somewhere! And although I could see it all playing out in my head the way it should, on paper it wasn’t coming across that way – even to me, the writer. It was then I knew I needed some professional help.

I gingerly emailed off my manuscript all the while feeling rather ill but when I received the feedback from the critique, which was amazingly detailed and thorough, I really wasn’t prepared for the emotions I would experience.

Firstly, it wasn’t all bad. Let’s get that out of the way.

Phrases such as ‘ a lot of good potential‘ ‘I really like this‘ ‘good elements and ideas‘ ‘great emotion‘ ‘good scene, conversation‘ ‘good internal conflict’I like this plot element’  are sprinkled throughout the critique. There is hope for me!, I cheer. But with the good comes the bad.

Too much summary‘ ‘repetitive’no conflict’switches POV‘ ‘too much narrative‘ ‘going nowhere‘. Ouch!

The major issues are:

– changing POV (big one for me)
– not enough conflict
– too much narrative summary
– time line problems
– and most important lack of plot structure to hold the story together logically.


It took me a few days to take it all in. Putting something that you have labored over for so long out there for critique is hard. It’s difficult not to take it to heart. But it’s also something that writers must face. 

At times I felt like throwing my laptop out the window and giving up writing for good, stupid writing! Other times I was excited by the potential that my novel had legs, albeit little spindly tadpole ones.

The truth is I’m not making any mistakes that first time writers haven’t made before. They are common issues and things that can be worked on, it’s not like my writing totally sucks. Really. It’s not. It doesn’t.

So after a few days of letting the advice wash around in my head I’m ready.

Ready for the hard work that lies ahead. Ready to take the next step of reworking my idea into something with a stronger concept and thought out structure. Ready to cull a few words (OK a LOT of words) and enhance scenes and plot lines. Ready to further develop my characters and make them work hard in the story.

I’m ready. Bring it on!


How do you take feedback and constructive criticism?