Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Review of an Online Critiquing Service

My fellow creative writers out there will all know the value of a good critique. I usually post my work to an online group to get some feedback, but I thought I would try out a 'professional critiquer'.

I found 'Constructive Critiques' (www.constructivecritiques.com), the site of Karlyn Thayer, Writing Instructor. On her site, Karlyn offers a free critique of 1000 words, so I decided I had nothing to lose.

I sent her the last 1000 words of one of my longer short stories. I was very impressed with the speed at which Karlyn processed my request. By the end of the day I had a confirmation email, and by the end of the next day I had my critique.

Karlyn wrote me a two page critique, and at the end added a highlighted version of my 1000 words to pick out exactly where I was going wrong. She started by picking out what she thought the strong points were. My initial reaction to this was that it sounded a little too complimentary, but perhaps I am used to receiving harsher crits. Anyhow, it was quite nice and she wrote in a way that made me feel confident in my ability.

Then Karlyn picked out a relevant quote which lead smoothly into her criticisms. She picked out three main areas of improvement and presented them in an easy-to-understand and logical way.

Karlyn highlighted some problems with my writing that I was unable to see, and that my online critiquing group had also missed. After she had picked them out, they seemed so obvious to me, yet I'm sure even after ten re-reads I would not have seen them! I think this reinforces that it is always a good idea to get a fresh pair of eyes look at your work, and even better than that a fresh pair of professional eyes.

The critique ended with a polite, quick and complimentary summary.

Karlyn's critiquing rates are very reasonable (check out her website), and her free critiquing offer is definitely worth a go. I may use her services at some point in the future.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Holy frick, I finally finished it.

I bought this book about two years ago. Started reading it, got confused, put it down, picked it up several months later, got confused, kept reading, started loving it... but it's rather dense and has taken me many, many months to finish. I am rather a slow reader, though.


I'm not going to give anything major away in this review, but I am going to talk about the gist of the plot and the structure quite a bit.

Cloud Atlas is a literary masterpiece. It is hugely creative in terms of both plot, style and structure. It is always great to read a piece of creative fiction that has tried to do something different in terms of not just content, but style and structure too.

The book is comprised of six different narratives that span across time, from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, and then begin to collapse back in on themselves so that the first and last narratives form a story, the second and the second-from-last form a story... etc.

These stories all link in strange ways, and are unified through little phrases or items or philosophies that crop up in each. The ending left me a tiny bit unsatisfied as I expected a more profound link to be made apparent, but on reflection, it did actually produce a satisfactory conclusion. In response to the last line (which I will not type): indeed, what is Time but a multitude of narratives? Something like that, anyway.

Each different narrative is written in a completely different style. Hats off to Mr. Mitchell for being such a diverse writer. Unfortunately for me, I found the first/last narrative, set in the 19th century South Pacific, to be the most boring, and I found it hard to get into the language. I find it strange that I could find the post-apocalyptic language easier to follow. Let me give you an example of this:

O, eery'n'so beautsome'n'blue she was, my soul was achin'. Suddenwise the ghost-girl vanished back into that egg an' a man took her place. A ghost-Prescient he was, this'un COULD see me an' fiercesome he speaked at me.

However, by the end of the book I had eventually become immersed in the first/last narrative, and was glad about it as I didn't want the book to end on a low point for me.

The sudden changes in narratives did slow the pace a little. I often find it hard to 'get into' a book, so when I'm just becoming familiar with a story and it suddenly stops and throws me into another, I find it slightly difficult to adjust. However, Mitchell always creates hooks, and always leaves cliffhangers, so you do want to read on. And the reader is greatly rewarded for doing so.

While reading this book, I really felt as though I was exploring the world through limitless time, exploring an 'atlas of clouds'.

Buy your copy here:
Cloud Atlas

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Venice & New Job

Don't worry, my dear readers, I have not deserted you! I have two reasons for not updating much recently (reasons, not excuses! ...kinda). Firstly, I have been to Venice, which has been my dream for a while now. It was so beautiful. Would love to go back, but perhaps only for a weekend instead of week as everything was so damn expensive. Which I may be able to do thanks to...

... becoming an Editorial Assistant at Pearson Education! I've just finished my third day. Everyone is so nice, and the building is amazing. I just hope I can do all the work to the standard they need. Slightly nerve-wracking. And I think it is going to take me a while to adjust to the 9-5 lifestyle.

In other news, I just checked my emails to find that one of my 'Hint Fiction' submissions have been accepted for publication. The anthology will be out later next year. I'm really happy about this one.

In conclusion: WOO!
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