Monday, February 20, 2006

Expert reader

Good grief! Very shrewdly, I was sent a taster short story set in the sub Roman era. So I applied my so-called expertise. I was able to jump all over it, just on the the writer's lack of knowledge of the era alone.

Having had a go at short stories myself, I know how much effort is put into shaping these things, so it's a shame I was able to pick at this story so easily. I suppose one of the reasons for doing the Expert Reading (could shorten this to ER, which might be appropriate!) is to learn what works and what doesn't. In the various short story magazines, you only get to see the publishable ones, of course.

Anyway, after this taster, I am pretty sure I can do the job. Even if called on to give a paid critique, I can say useful stuff as to why it got rejected. In the case of the taster, to put it very briefly, I would have advised more reading about the era (the grasp on material culture in particular was very poor - porcelain in Roman Britain, I don't think so!) and more attention to focus, characterisation, dialogue and pacing.


At 3:58 pm GMT, Blogger Carla said...

All that sounds like very useful commentary, Alex. I'd think any writer would be glad to receive a critique like that; it's specific enough to tell them what they could usefully improve. If you do take on the ER, I'd be interested to hear how it goes. It should be a fascinating insight into publishing from the other side - not often that a chance like that comes up! I thought about volunteering for it, but I don't know if I could guarantee the time commitment.

At 4:50 pm GMT, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Carla, the time commitment turns out not be as bad as I thought. Next to the skills problem, that was my 2nd worry. I was told that I wouldn't be sent another manuscript before finishing the previous one. If the turnover takes a month, it wouldn't be the end of the world, apparently! On that basis, I've said I'll give it go, and already have another story to look at - the grade of this one is far less clear cut, which is interesting in itself.

I take it you've joined the HNS then?!

At 10:14 am GMT, Blogger Carla said...

There are some times when I'd have trouble turning a review round within a month! But presumably Richard has had plenty of offers by now?

At 1:31 pm GMT, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Same here on the review front! Especially if it's a difficult read ...

Richard seems pretty flexible. He's had about a dozen people, but I'm sure could accommodate more!

At 3:51 pm GMT, Blogger Kate Allan said...

Sometimes critiquing other people's work can also help with developing your own, so glad to read you're going for it! Should be fun.


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