Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Rising Fire's professional critique on Youwriteon

I'm pleased as Punch and Judy...

Today Rising Fire got its free literary critique on Youwriteon, that I won for being in the top five at the end of November. It was written by Gillian Stern, who works as an editor at Bloomsbury and Curtis Brown. I'm quoting two extracts, the first praise, the second some of her suggestions.

'In my job personal taste is irrelevant, but I can tell you that fantasy is not my favourite genre. However, happily for me, the extract of your novel is totally accessible and appealing and I found myself hooked and really enjoying the experience of reading it. I like the way in which you write and I like the voices and the characterisation and nothing about the writing or the story is complicated or inaccessible or difficult to take in. In fact once I got into the narrative, I was absolutely swept along – something I really did not expect.'

'My main criticism is that while all these good things are good, I felt that your writing is a little simplistic – not the style, but the layering within the writing. By this I mean that as a reader, I constantly wanted to know more – more about the time and place, more about the cultural, social and political context of the time and more, much more of Tor’s internal dialogue. The fantasy market is crowded and readers are used to complex plots, ideas and imaginings and in order to be satisfied, they need something satisfying and new. And I feel that, apart from your accessible style and the relationship you set up between Tor and Xantilor and of course your plot turns, there is not all that much that is earth shatteringly new here, little that would make an editor sit up and see this above all the other proposed novels on their desk.'

Gillain Stern's advice will be extremely helpful in my next revision. I've just finished one revision, but knew it needed more work, and I could do better. Onwards and upwards.

(If you'd like to read the whole review, it's on my website).


  1. Lexi,

    I just read Gillian Stern's review.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that it was exactly what you were looking for in a professional critique. She gave some fantastic pointers and yet she recognized, as I think just about all of your readers have, that you are a wonderful storyteller who creates memorable, enduring characters.

    Build on this. I really think she gave you some wonderful, specific advice (wouldn't it be nice if all reviews were like that?) that you can use to make Rising Fire a real world beater.

    Hearty congrats!

  2. Yes, I agree.

    Best advice I've had since your critique of Trav Zander, which, for quantity and quality of useable suggestions, stands alone.

    And you know I'm not flattering you here, Alan.

  3. That's fab! Very well done. We'll be plodding through our fantasy rewrites together then, babe! I'll bring chocolate if you bring wine.



  4. Sounds good to me, Anne.

    Though perhaps salted almonds rather than chocolates...

  5. What a helpful, useful review, LExi. Fab!

    Indeed, onwards and upwards!


  6. Lexi,

    You know that being of some help to another writer is a genuinely exciting thing for me. Digging into someone else's stuff and coming up with of use is something I truly enjoy.

    Of course you know that this means when you become a bestselling author with a genre all to herself (Fantasy that non-fantasy readers actually enjoy) that you are obliged to get me a job with your publisher. I trust this is not a problem?

    I was psyched when you made it into the winners' circle and I am psyched by your professional critique. It reinforces what I felt about your writing from the first look. You've got what so many lack in storytelling and character (elements that I think are very difficult to teach) and you are a persistent, dedicated artist who isn't afraid to keep at it until you get it the best it can be. To me that spells success. It may take a bit of time, but it will be yours.

  7. Just wanted to add my congratulations here too.

    Obviously bcs of the CB connection I know of Gillain and my agent says she's one of the best editors around... so do take her advice to heart. It might make all the difference when you come to submit!


  8. Lexi, I have a question. Did Ted (of YWO) tell you to implement the edits and that he would then send the book out to his stable of agents?
    He did for me with Wipeout and Hedonic Crimes and I was thrilled until it was all no's. Both books though were very American so it didn't surprise me - yours should find a home easily!!!!

  9. No, Fiona, he didn't! I had no idea he ever did this.

    I guess he must have thought yours more ready, or more commercial than mine. I thought both Wipeout and Hedonic Crimes gripping.

  10. Thanks so much Lexi. I was thrilled and implementented the changes suggested, but got no agent bites. Some YWO winners get the same offer and it kept me lingering on YWO for that reason. The funny thing is that By Some Other Sea and Bird of Paradise were both totally trashed by the professional critics, but remains the only YWO pieces I have sold! It's all a crapshoot. Please email me, because my publisher is launching a new fantasy imprint and your books would be perfect for her: