SM Worsey

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Published veggie guidebook and cookbook writer, hoping to break into fiction. I'm a keen organic gardener, 6 Music fan and guinea pig slave. Currently living in Lancashire.

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I had my 1-2-1 15 minute phone call with my chosen book doctor today, and it was extremely useful (h…
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I read all of this without skimming, and really enjoyed it. I am the same age as the protag's father, so I found it easy to imagine having a teenage son prying for presents and feeling anxious about being caught. 

Would it be more believable if he were up in the seldom-used house loft, rummaging there? I can't imagine sensitive paperwork being stored under a bed. I also didn't really feel much danger in putting papers in a box back under the bed and leaving a room. Having to climb down from a loft, push the ladder back up and close the hatch before the parents appear in the hallway downstairs and catch him would ramp up the tension. 

In addition to comments that others have already made, so no point repeating, I'd urge you to cut most of those ...ly adverbs, as they are hard to read, add nothing, and are a sign of amateur writing (no offense intended, I'm not sure how else to express this point). For example, in your first paragraph: 

Gerald dropped another lump of sugar into his teacup and stirred it slowly. He stared out of the window over the playing field as rows of young women jerked their arms mechanically up and down and bent their knees energetically. A female teacher stood at the front of the group, her whistle placed in her mouth and her cane swishing time, up and down as the girls bent and straightened and physically jerked their collective way through the routine.

I suggest cutting the words in bold, and see how the flow improves. Arm jerking implies a mechanical movement. The teacher with the whistle and cane makes it clear that the girls are being put through an exercise routine. "Physically" is a nonsense word. How could exercise not be physical?

Every time you feel tempted to write a ...ly adverb, think about what you're trying to achieve with it. Is there a tighter, less lazy way to emphasise the action? Knees pumping is far more visual than knees moving energetically. Someone charging over is more effective than running briskly, and so on.

The only one I'd keep is the shawl being pulled tightly around shoulders, though even then, wrapped tight would read better, I think.

I like this a lot. Great concept, and smoothly written. The dialogue is very natural, though perhaps there's too much of it? The second half of this extract feels like it's almost entirely dialogue. 

There's too much grinning, smiling, chuckling. It jars. In fact, there's too many dialogue tags in general. They take me out of the story and remind me that I'm reading someone's writing. Use said, unless someone shouts etc. 

I'm not sure that "embarrassedly" is a word. Watch out for really awkward, clunky words like this, that nobody ever says, thinks or writes.

The first one, definitely. It would benefit from being tightened up a bit, though. e.g. para 2 would be better without "quickly" and para 3 doesn't need "this feeling of" or "a force".

I don't think that the protag being 15 will put adults off, because the story opens in the 1980s. Those of us who were kids in the 80s are in our 40s now. 


changed a profile cover 

Can you please un-pin this? It's near the top of the threads each time I log in, which gives the impression of a forthcoming event.

One of the least satisfying aspects of writing is that I learn the craft, get helpful feedback from fellow writers and can recognise amazing prose when I see it. Then I pick up a bestseller and it's full of all the things I've learned not to do. For example, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is around 90% Tell, 10% Show. I've lost count of the number of novels with constant POV switches, too. Aaagh!

Added a comment to Arguments 

We all react differently in stressful situations, and there is an argument that the pattern for this is set in childhood. A character whose parents rowed a lot is likely to have a powerful urge to withdraw from confrontation. So on getting into an argument, they will either become very guarded, or they will get nervous and say whatever will please the other person and make them back down.

A person with no deep rooted fear of confrontation is more likely to let their guard down and blurt something out that they have been suppressing. Hence the apparently contradictory suggestions so far.

I'd be interested, and I have lots of spare time this week to read. 

I'd like a fresh pair of eyes on my completed YA thriller. Mainly so that any glitches that I've accidentally created by editing and cutting can be flagged up. Although it's YA, the main characters are 18 and it's very much upper YA. It's about a photographer who goes undercover to infiltrate a dogfighting gang, and his techie assistant, who provides surveillance support. Address is my user name, then 2020 (all one word) at gmail.

I'm happy to have a look. My username followed by 2020 at gmail .com

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