Comment to 'ROOTS, a short excerpt posted for feedback'
  • First up, you write well. It is a very readable extract.

    I'll admit there were quite a few cases where I wanted to perform a quick edit, cut a word or two, rearrange and tighten for impact (or maybe pacing, rhythm, flow). Jon's mentin of Oct-Dec and generous bounty being prime examples, though I might have taken a more creative approach than his simple pruning.

    Also, as Jon mentions, there's nothing wrong with a reflective passage in a book. Indeed, many need them. Characters need time to cogitate on and assimilate the lessons of the high-action/drama scenes, while the reader needs time to breath. The question is always one of the purpose it serves, and some aspects of this read a little more like early-story rather than mid-story descriptions. Though it very much depends on what came before, and what prior introduction we have had to the setting.

    The one aspect of this I would say needs the most work, before you look at tightiening the prose, is the order of elements. They are haphazard, jumping in size, focus, and intimacy. For example, once you reach the tree, your next four paragraphs are: remoteness, property ownership, neighbour, wintertime chestnut roasting… There is no natural sweep to this, no direction that you are drawing us steadily through the episode.

    I would recommend summarising each paragraph into 2-3 words, then (with post-its or little strips of paper) rearrange the order. Each step should continue a logical progression - a sweep across the vista, pulling back or diving into detail/intimacy. You don't need to only go wide-angle to detail, or the other way, but you should take multiple steps in one direction before switching it around, and in a piece this long, you don't have time for two changes of scaling direction.

    Find a sequence that has a natural flow to it, culminating in the questions of ownership and value (which I presume is the point of the scene). This might mean there are snippets that don't fit here. And others you need to insert as bridges.

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    • Thank you Rick for reading and commenting. Great insight and very helpful. I'm going to rewrite with your suggestions in mind. I think I'm used to writing in a ramdon sort of way, as the thread of inspiration takes me, but I see the need to be more cohesive. (First time someone points that out to me and although I hadn't picked it up by myself, I know you've spoken the truth...) BIG Thank You!

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