“Is it the Grammar?” On getting the critique of my novel back

Two things have happened recently: 1) I packed my bags and went on a tennis holiday to Greece (and managed not to fall over. Hurrah!) and 2) I’ve had the critique of my novel back. Eeek!

To be honest, I got the critique last week, by email and I only opened the file and read it a couple of nights ago (5 days later).

In my defence, we’d had visitors over the weekend and I wanted to wait until I had some quiet, alone-time, to read it … OK, that’s a bit of a feeble excuse. In truth, the real reason I didn’t read it any sooner is because I was scared!

Of course, I’ve had feedback on work before (although, not recently) but never on anything as long as 80,000 words or on anything that I’ve invested so much blood, sweat and tears in.

The good news is that it’s not completely terrible. In fact, there are lots of good bits. Modesty prevents me from being more explicit BUT (you knew this was coming, didn’t you), I’ve got to work on stuff, particularly in the final third. I need to put the characters’ emotional journey on the page much more and make the reader sweat a bit before the ‘happy ever after’. You know, easy stuff like that.

My elderly neighbour keeps asking me about my book and when I told her I’d had my critique back but I needed to do some more work now on the manuscript, she asked, “Is it the grammar?” Erm.. well no. The grammar is the least of my problems. The grammar, I’m happy to say, is just about OK.

As well as wondering if it was all going to be completely terrible, I was also putting off reading it because I knew it would mean more work. Back to the drawing board and all that. Another draft beckons – which has to be done before the end of August because I have a RNA critique to take up before then.

Of course, when you’re giving someone feedback on their work, there’s little point in being anything other than honest but don’t be brutally so. Be kind! (My critique-person was kind). There’s always something positive you can say about someone’s writing. A damning critique can put someone off writing for months, or years or even for life, whereas a few kind words can boost a writer’s (usually fragile!) self-esteem and give them confidence.

As Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

PS: This is my 600th post! Think how many novels I could have written instead…!
PPS: Is anyone watching ‘Love Island’? No? No, no, me neither. Rubbish. Mastermind for the Masses. Bubblegum TV. Absolute trash. Oh, but I really, really, really hope Dr Alex finds someone…soon!

Sunset cruise in Greece. Apparently someone saw a dolphin’s fin.

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16 Responses to “Is it the Grammar?” On getting the critique of my novel back

  1. juliathorley says:

    We might all say we welcome constructive criticism, but am I the only writer who is just a teeny bit put out when I actually get it?!

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Yes, I know what you mean! But I think I knew, when I sent the manuscript off (finally! two months late!) that the latter part was not the best, because I’d spent the least amount of time on it but also because the ending, when you’re tying everything up/resolving issues, etc, needs to be strong, as that’s what the whole thing’s been leading up to. So actually I agreed with the criticism (but yes, it’s still scary and a bit ‘ouch!’ when you get it!)

  2. Linda Tyler says:

    I’ve also just received a crit on my novel, with lots of good bits but also saying I need to give my MC more emotion. If you find a quick and easy way to do this, I’d love to know!

  3. Linda Lewis says:

    Sounds like your novel is almost there. Well done you. I was so put off by not selling my first I haven’t written anymore. Maybe I’m too lazy. Good luck with the rewriting. It will be worth it. You’re good.

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Aw, thanks Linda, that’s very kind. Novel writing is really hard work, isn’t it? I think, essentially, I’m too lazy as well but it was just something I wanted to do – at least once! (and maybe only once!). Most people don’t sell their first novels so perhaps you should try another one some time…?

  4. Sharon boothroyd says:

    What’s your novel about, Helen? What genre? I’d love to read a brief outline.

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Hi Sharon. It’s a contemporary romance (I hesitate to call it a ‘romantic comedy’ because I don’t think it’s got enough funny bits!)

  5. I wouldn’t call either you or Linda lazy, Helen! To have written an 80,000 word novel is an amazing achievement. But I share your pain. I have just been through the editing process of my novel and I was really scared about it. It felt like being back at school, knowing someone was going through my work so meticulously. But it was worth it. As it will be for you.

    • Thanks, Paula. It is really scary, isn’t it? When you’ve invested so much time and effort in something…! Anyway, I need to get back to it soon before I go off the boil!

  6. pennywrite says:

    Good luck, all you novel writers! So far, so good…

  7. Wendy Clarke says:

    I remember that wait for my first NWS critique. I waited and waited… only to find the email letting me know the results had been sent had gone astray! It’s a wonderful scheme though and I should be getting my own critique back very soon.

    • Wendy, this wasn’t actually an RNA critique – I’ve still got that one to come! I paid for this one separately(I bid for it on a Grenfell Tower auction, which was raising funds for the victims). Now I have to polish up my draft and send it to the RNA over the summer. How many novels have you written now then? Will this be your third?

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