It was a scorcher this Wednesday and there was plenty of people making the most of it in the NQ. While everyone else was slurping on craft ale and preening their lumberjack beards, we were cooped up on the second floor of MadLab getting ready to crit. We only managed to get through three of the four pieces in the end (grumble grumble) so Arthur’s piece will be carried over to the next Tuesday session. On with the Crits!
Eric presented a horror piece called ‘No Man’s Land’.
I think everyone was intrigued by the genre mash-up of horror and military fiction in this piece. Lots of comparisons to The Dirty Dozen were made and a few questions raised over the sheer number of characters in the piece. Is the story simply too short to sustain such a busy roster? No one seemed to get on with the Irish regional dialect and the general consensus was that the story would not suffer without it. A few logic questions were raised over the Artillery being used as a distraction when it could be used to kill the werewolves. A few members are hoping for a twist on the werewolf mythos given the lack of interesting directions the genre has gone down lately (bar Stephen Graham Jones’s excellent Mongrels of course). The highlight of the piece for many was the strong sense of place coupled with Denby’s happy-go-lucky characterization.
We all look forward to reading the second part next time.
Bronwin presented a chapter from her novel ‘Air’
I think everyone enjoyed the strange and wonderful world in this piece and there were lots of positive comments about the spiders vs fairies theme. A lot of readers found that the descriptions lacked clarity and called for a more perspicuous prose style, especially given the piece is aimed at a young market. The group was split down the middle as to whether the pictures worked or not, some enjoyed the interactivity while others felt they dragged the reader out of the story. Some questions over speaker dialogue. More speaker tags required for clarity? A couple of members picked up on the large info dumping regarding the historical conflict between fairies and spiders.
Everyone is looking forward to finding out where the story is going.
Emma presented a chapter from her novel ‘Westralia’.
There was lots of praise for the writing in this piece. The protagonist’s parents were a particular highlight for a lot of people. A common critique seemed to centre on the large info dump in the centre of the piece. All the information about Zeke and his father is delivered in what feels like an unnatural way. Calls to break up the POV? Perhaps Zeke gets his own viewpoint? Lots of nice comments about the hybrid plane and the little witticisms peppered throughout. Some questions over how Suzie knows the protag is going to Westralia and some questions over how a school can issue a visa for a foreign country. Some members didn’t see the logic in the father being held captive, and the expectation that the brother taking his place will solve the problem.
In sad news, Emma will be leaving us for a while as she travels back to her native Australia. Fingers crossed she’ll be back soon, we need to read the rest of her novel!
As usual, we jibbed across for a few swift ones over at Common. We’re looking forward to the next meeting already. Get scribbling all!!
We had another great meeting last Tuesday, although with a slight change of location. After a mix-up with our usual room in MadLab, we headed over to Tea4/2 on High street (who were kind enough to give us a table for 2 hours). Nice chairs!
We had 10 members in attendance this Tuesday including one new member. I’m sure everyone will join me in welcoming Claire, we look forward to seeing some work from you very soon.
On to our crits:
Peter presented two pieces: one short story and the first part of a larger work. A lot of praise for both of these, both the writing and the ideas. A few questions raised regarding whether these were standalone or part of something larger (something to make clear in the submission folder methinks). There was a feeling with both pieces that they gave a snapshot of an interesting world and perhaps wanted to be turned into something longer.
- ‘The Centaurs’ Dream’ put some members in mind of a ‘Little Mermaid’ but with centaurs, which all agreed sounded like a job lot of fun! Some questions about ‘amphora’ in the first line and the difficult to character names possibly presenting a tripping point for flash readers. Calls to make more of the discovery of Chalcedon’s transformation and expand upon the reasons and repercussions for and of this change: is there some irony to this transformation?
- ‘Enclosure’ received a lot of praise for the writing and descriptions. Some great world building here. Some members worried that the characters were a little bit generic and there were calls for this to be expanded to give the motivations and backstory for both our protagonist and antagonist. Questions over why our protagonist doesn’t put up much of a fight, and how her brother came to be the King’s right hand. Is he really in control? Where is the King anyway? We look forward to learning sometime soon!
Arthur presented the first two chapters from his novel ‘Repospace’, a Douglas Adams-esque foray into the life and adventures of an intergalactic repo man. There was all round praise for the setting and humour throughout this piece. Also praise for the characterization of Larrr. There were some concerns about the number of characters introduced in the second chapter and some calls for more active intros of the main characters. Some members felt that the sub-plot with Larrr needed to be drawn out over several chapters (or perhaps the whole novel!). Calls also for more active showing of the events in the opening. All agreed that there was a lot of great material here with Larrr’s backstory and the initial repo job-gone-wrong, but as this was all told by other characters rather than shown to the reader, we ended up missing out on a great ride! Lets get the narrator front and centre for the repoo job. Some questions over Larrr’s motivations given her situation and the inclusion of the nagging wife.
Finally, Angela presented the first part of her story ‘Sorell Sharclaw’. Lots of praise here for the descriptions and vocabulary, aggressive main character, use of senses other than just sight, and the sinister foreshadowing of what we might have in store for us. Some members felt the piece was reminiscent of Chronicles of Riddick and Enemy Mine with our protagonist trapped on an apparently barren planet with an unsavoury character. Lots of interest in our POV’s implants and how they work. Some questions over why she has to shave her head to get them working (because they’re solar powered!) and why someone who powers up from sunlight has been imprisoned on a planet with three suns. Calls for more characterization of Dickrot (and some clarification: is his name really Dickrot?!), including bringing out his malevolent side (he’s a big teddy right now). Calls, also, for some more alien flora and fauna, and explanation as to why she has been exiled to this planet: what is the rehabilitation system that she is being put through? We look forward to seeing more soon, and hopefully getting some richer descriptions of this out of body experience.
That’s all for the crits; however, we’ve been getting quite a lot of comments about manuscript formatting recently. As a general reminder be sure to check out the Shunn Formatting guidelines. Basically:
- Double line spacing in a plain font (Times or Courier)
- Put ‘Name // Short-Title // Page#’ in your header (starting second page)
- Keep your paragraphing consistent (if you use a hanging indent for new para, then stick with it!)
- Use a # to designate a section break to avoid confusion.
Phew! That wasn’t so bad.
Our next meeting is an early one in the month: Wednesday the 8th. We’ll see you there!