Janet Savin

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Janet Savin Discussions
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Hi everybody,I haven’t been on Townhouse very much as the work on my novel has come to a close. The …
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  •  · Thank you, David. I hope all is well with you. I miss seeing your writing -- and other members' -- a…
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Hi everybody,This is a PS to the excerpt that I posted of a mass demonstration in Prague 1989. It se…
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  •  · Happy to but you’ll need to DM me with your email. G
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Hi everyone,I’m posting an excerpt from Vol II of my novel on the Velvet Revolution for comments, as…
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  •  · Hi Penny,Thank you for reading & commenting. Libby also suggested moving up Jarek's remark, and …
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Hi everybody,Anna just found this link to Greg Buchanan's advice on talking to agents. It might be o…

Karmen, a more than 'rather good' review! What a feather in your cap. Congratulations. I read very few thrillers, but the review made me want to read this one. I've preordered, and I'll write a review.

Hi Susan, My main concern was the length, but I don't go for violent material, so I will pass. Thanks for the warning. I hope you find someone to read the scene. Since you're wondering about it now, might you want to get several women's opinions???

I loved this! Right down to the names of the characters. The details are original and very telling, and the writing has a light touch of irony, yet the story is compassionate. Very well done. Is there any way of seeing the film on-line?

Yes, the layout is really cool, and the quality is very good, include a short by Elizabeth Leyland! It's superbly done; I love the voice. Again, congratulations.

Hi Susan,

I don't have anything to swap (I just published a novel), but I might be able to read your chapter, depending on the length (I'm rather short on time). Could you also say a bit more about the setting and storyline?

Wow, LIbby, that's just wonderful. Even the title is cool. I'll read it this evening. Congratulations!!!

Hi Glynn 

I’m sorry if my comments about POV didn’t come across. The POV you establish in the story creates expectations in readers, just as do world building and character creation. As I wrote earlier, for the first seven pages, I thought the POV was close third ; when you switch suddenly to omniscient in the pub, your readers have to recalibrate the angle from which you’re telling your story. They need to know it by then. If they have to recalibrate, their attention shifts from the scene itself to the givens of the narration and that’s a distraction. You don’t want their attention to wander from the scene, especially in this case, where the action is lively, the pacing is good and there’s a shade of darker things to come. In addition, a sudden unprepared shift will signal to an agent that you’re not being so mindful with choice of POV, which is always used with the same care that’s given to choice of detail and language -- or should be. 

So, it’s not just that you should let readers get used to greater distance early on ; you do need to do that, but if you’re going to have multiple POVs, you need to think about how you’re going to signal that so that the fundamentals of your story are clear soon on. One commonly used method in a novel with multiple POV is to title each chapter with the name of the character whose thoughts we’re in for that chapter. You might not want to do that, and if you want to mix within chapters, you need find another way anyhow. My example of using Harvey in the lab was a suggestion about where that could be done ; but it wasn’t a ‘should’. As Libby said, this is your novel, and the decisions are yours. I hope this is clearer. You’re welcome to say so if it isn’t.

Congratulations, Glyn! I'll read it too. The film looks intriguing as well.

Hi Glyn,

First, like the others, I really enjoyed this. The characters are interesting, well differentiated, much of the repartee is engaging, and the premise is intriguing. I don’t know the genres involved that well, so can’t make the kind of commentary Laure did. But you yourself seem familiar with when the inciting incident needs to come. As I read, I indeed felt that you established a particular world which the characters were quite attached to and which was about to be turned upside down, and that you did so skilfully. If you began with the murder, you’d have to establish Harvey’s character with backstory, and I doubt that would be as successful or even desirable. Maybe that doesn’t matter ; I don’t know how important it is to care about the victim in this kind of writing, but I did feel a lot for Harvey. Maybe you could start with the lab and pare down the passages on Saffy and Joe just a bit, so the father and daughter are more of the main focus from the outset – unless Joe becomes equally important in the story.

I can probably be most useful commenting on the writing. I agree with the kinds of cuts that Libby suggested. While hers had mostly to do with character, I’ll focus on action and actions and try to dig into what several people have said about pace.

The problem as I see it is not simply that you have too many details and too much information – though I agree with these points. Your style at times weighs down instead of imitating’ the action it’s intended to express. Take the second sentence of your first paragraph for example. ‘The lid is on, so it doesn’t mark…’ This expresses cause-effect, but you don’t need to set that out. What’s important is a brief, sharp action. With Libby’s caveats in mind – this is your novel – I’d suggest something like : ‘Lid is on, the stuff on the pinboard stays unscathed.’ Twenty-three syllables reduced to twelve, but equally important, all the words except for two are a single syllable. Another possibility : you could omit the sentence and give Saffy a stronger verb in the first : ‘hurls’, ‘flings’. I’ll come back to ‘stuff’ in the suggestion.

Shift to the intruder walking catlike. I’d make ‘The key fits the lock.’ one sentence to give it punch. ‘since’ is another explanatory word, underlining cause and effect, and you don’t need it either. ‘Neither Harvey nor Saffy has bolted inside, and the door opens,’ eg. You might consider cutting the next sentence ; the beginning of the next paragraph (‘A slim torchbeam…’ could imply it) unless leaving the door ajar is important.

Once Saffy wakes, much of the writing is faster paced. But when she actually confronts the intruder, you could strengthen the writing in the ways I’ve already suggested. Verbs need to be more vigorous. Couldn’t the figure ‘loom’ rather than ‘standing up’ ? She ‘lunges’ and so does the figure. You needn’t describe him twice, and the description in the second line has better possibilities : ‘a masked hulk’, eg. (With the mask, anonomity is implied.) It’s distracting to show Saffy’s thought process at this moment. You could cut straight to ‘He holds her shoulders…’

A word about POV and the narrator. I thought the POV was close third for the first seven pages, and it was wrenching when we saw the thugs, which Saffy couldn’t, and then she suddenly barged through. You need to establish POV sooner. One possibility might be the lab scene with Harvey’s reaction to the Project Reset rather than having the narrator explain it.

At times the narrator seems a bit staid for this particular world, and I agree with Libby’s advice to let us into Saffy’s head more. The description of Mr Beresford is belaboured. Saffy being more ‘concerned’ about her father than the intruder is a bit bloodless. You could keep the narrative but allow the narrator to adopt the tone of whichever character is the POV in the moment. You do something like that in the middle of p. 2 with Joe and ‘Awww…’ and later, juxtaposing stylistically Harvey’s ‘very large brain’ with his only child. And you do it with Saffy’s reflection about Rachel too (‘ah, but…’). That’s the reason behind my suggestion of ‘stuff’ or some other slang in the second sentence. It needn’t devalue Saffy’s project.

There is some very deft writing and handling of detail in this piece. If you excised details and information that are unnecessary to your story line and pared the style, with more attention to what any one passage is intended to express, it could be compelling. I hope this is of some help.

Thank you, David. I hope all is well with you. I miss seeing your writing -- and other members' -- and am happy to be back on this forum. Would love to hear your news if you want to write a note on Messenger.

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Janet Savin
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