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About Robinski

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    Fighting unnecessary capitalisation since June 2013

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  1. Happy REbirthday!
  2. Mmmmm, Soylent Green, tasty
  3. Title I think titles are important. They very much set my expectation for project. My assumptions don’t always turn out right, but I still make them on the basis of the title. This one, for me, presents a very clean image of what the story is about, has an optimistic, hopeful tone that builds my enthusiasm for reading it First sentence / first paragraph Not bad. I like that the first sentence is short. The first paragraph goes on to give a pretty clear impression of S’s frame of mind, although not actually what’s going on. But, S has a pretty clear voice so far, which is good. I feel like I’m going to learn a good deal more about them, and the world. Character engagement Snacks? Wow, what is it with your characters and food? By the foot of page 1, I can see that S has determination, perhaps extending to stubbornness to be contrary. That can be a compelling trait. I’m on board so far. Story / plot engagement A very clear inciting incident on page 1 in the form of the invitation. Completely unambiguous and a welcome invitation to me as the reader to read on. That first scene got a Setting / worldbuilding engagement I like the tone of the worldbuilding detail. I feel there’s a lightness to it that implies this isn’t going to be dark and gritty story. What I’m not getting on the first page is a clear indication of what kind of world this is. There is mention of the elementals at the foot of the page, and now I'm in some doubt as to whether this is a magical story. I guess the cover art and blurb would make this clear however, so probably not a big issue, yet. Okay, there’s mention of mages on page 2. That’s probably fine. However when elementals are mentioned again on page 3, I find I’m getting frustrated from not having a clearer image of how the world works, and who the major players are. Prose style I like that the prose style is direct, as I’ve come to expect from you. That it isn’t overly wordy or complicated, or fussy. Makes it easy to read. Prose quality – This is just a tracker to help me…track the issues I have with the text. Each slider starts at 10, and I drop one each time I experience an issue that makes me stop reading. I don’t go below 1 though. I think there are a lot of issues in this prose. - Typos: 1/10 – all fixable of course - Readability: 8/10 – it would read fast and smooth without the issues - Clarity: 1/10 – as per comments below, there was a lot I didn’t understand - Word choice: 5/10 – some places I thought this was off - Grammar: 5/10 – some clunky sentences, I thought Clarity / confusion How does E know about the invitation? I thought that S just discovered it. So, where does Ambassador F come from? Who does he represent? “since before the floor” – What does this mean? Confused. Oh, flood. “The awareness soared forward on the wind” – So, this isn’t S’s awareness? Not clear, IMO. “Why do you fear me?” – I got no sense of fear from S’s thoughts. Trepidation maybe. “lake elemental” – But Atl is an ocean elemental, surely? Confused. “carry out its vengeance” – What vengeance? Why? I thought they worked together all the time. “pushed back on the throttle” – So does this mean. You would pull back on the throttle, surely, or push forward. I’ve not been in many boats (2 or 3), but I’m pretty sure throttles are intuitive that way. “A probably could’ve just done this to Freeman’s boat, but she wanted S to see him” – Confused image. Meaning unclear. Why is Freem-n in a tiny wee boat? That’s not explained. Why doesn’t he arrive on the big official ship? “They got away” – The description of his encounter with the witches is vague. To some extent that’s okay, because it would sound like heavy exposition if it was laid out in great detail, but the issue is that, in clipped summary, it feels thin. “Elementals from using their ambassadors” – Confused: I thought the ambassadors were the human representatives. “She just wanted us to talk” – Who did, Atlan? “could lead to war” – War between which parties? “We won’t all vote the same” – But they're not an ambassador, their mother is, surely. Specific issues Food: the heavy involvement of food at the start becomes an issue for me quite quickly. Food is not plot relevant and, unless the character has an eating disorder, it doesn’t seem character relevant either. Maybe I'm sensitised to this after reading Book of M, but still, it’s distracting. Word choice: ‘space at the dock’ is a berth, surely. E would use the correct term, as a professional, wouldn’t he? “as the ocean carried them off” – When I read this, I thought it was carrying both of them away from his boat, which confused me. But I realise it was pronoun confusion on my part. Things I enjoyed “The rush of the incoming tide” – Woosh. That’s a big flood of attraction right there. Good line. Very clearly showing S’s emotions towards E from the start. When S is on the water you capture that feeling really well. Great use of senses. It’s clearly a passion. I like the ending to the chapter, but I don’t think it’s really earned by the set up within the chapter. “Did you know they grow children in vats?” – Ooh, nasty. And I'm especially attracted to the idea because I used it in TCC, for TOM’s growing of Nick. Things I disliked “animal waste that fueled it” – I like the idea, but it makes the world smell unpleasant, and I want to fall in wonder with this world, but I can’t do that if I'm smelling cow poo. “possibly damaging one or both boats” – I can’t believe S is not a more experienced boatsperson than this. This is a very basic manoeuvre surely, for someone with experience. “a big lump grown out of the boat” – poor description. “brushed a stray hair out of their mouth” – I think the description could be better around their conversation. I've lost the sense that they are moving quickly over water. I think they should be calling, maybe even shouting, over the noise. “The Sur-----s Accords” – The double plural is awkward to read. Also, you’ve used the plural survivors’ once, but there have been numerous mentions of the accords: grammar inconsistency. “the flood” – Inconsistent capitalisation: frustrating to read. “a little murder, once in a while” – This is weird. The phrasing makes S sound ambivalent towards murder. I guess I sort of get that, since it’s practically unknown, but they came over rather emotionally vacant here, I thought. “If humans waged war on each other again, She would kill them” – This is a nice clear statement if intent, of stakes. It’s very clear where I’ve spent most of the chapter findings things that were unclear, I’m afraid. “river gradually widened” – But they are going upriver, are they not? Surely it would narrow? “even with their mind walled off” – What is this? Is it a special ability? Biggest issue(s) “Do you understand why you have to go know?” – I’m afraid I don’t. I don’t’ see any reason why S would go instead of their mother, who is the ambassador. “A storm was coming” – I don’t get much sense of this either. What is the tension between people that will lead to war Would I keep reading? Honestly, I’m afraid I wouldn’t. It just didn’t find the characters compelling enough, to commit to being engaged through a whole novel. Overall impression / Summary As a character, I found S rather emotionally blank, their voice quite neutral. There are interesting ideas, and the world has an interesting form to it, but I found a lot of things unclear, and the general set up a bit vague. This reads to me like an early draft with quite a bit needing doing to clarify the world, and the character motivations. My big issue is that I don’t see why S has to go instead of their mother. There needs to be a compelling reason, like their mother is in the hospital, or has disappeared. But I don’t see why, with war at stake, S would be going instead of the ambassador. I’m also very unclear on who the antagonist(s) is/are. It’s not just this old bloke, is it? He didn’t seem especially dangerous. And while I’m on him, I was completely nonplussed as to why he went out in a boat by himself. Sorry not to be more positive. Thanks for sharing
  4. This might be a really useful process. One sentence per chapter, with the thought in mind 'What does this chapter do?' Here's a though. I sounds a bit to me like maybe the tournament is actually where the novel should start. How about skipping anything before then, let us just read the tournament chapter now and let's see how it stands on it's own? It may be that it is where the story starts, and anything before then can be fed in as background through ongoing events, as and when it is relevant. Yeah, and that's why it's so powerful of course. You can do that world-building, but you are absolutely not allowed to include it in the story
  5. Mission accomplished. But I set out reading assuming that he was the MC, which is good, because the old 'trick' of writing villains that assume they're the hero of their own story really does work. So, I see that he's trying to achieve something, not just being mean/evil for the sake of it, which is always less engaging. There's nothing wrong with a prologue being ambiguous. One of my favourite books of the 90's is a novel called Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith, and it has a prologue that I still do not understand to this day, having read the book three times (I think). So, prologues don't have to make sense. So, on that basis, I'm not saying you have to be super expository In fact, that is contra-indicated by the best prologues, I think. but giving an indication of the themes of the story, the type of story and the type of world, I think is important. Well, the best way of course is to not have any, then you don't have to catch them Joking apart, I really appreciate reading good quality prose on here, because I assume it as an indication that the writer cares enough about their work to check it over before submitting so we don't have to wade through a bunch of typos. It definitely affects the critique that I give, I find. Yeah, the problem is gross generalisations are always wrong, because there is always a proportion of that catchment, that population that does not fit the criteria. There are way more offensive examples of course of gross generalisations, like racism, sexism, etc., and no doubt 'rich' people don't need any sympathy. My problem is that this sort of generalisation is just as bad as saying poor people are stupid. It's just as obviously wrong. Yeah this is supposed to reveal that there's something really sinister about J since it's such an outlandish thing to say. Maybe too on the nose? Hmm, interesting. I think maybe it was just too ambiguous for me. I tend to take statements very literally, so, if there is any room for literal interpretation, I will pretty much grab onto that. I reckon that my comments were prompted by the fact that I don't think it's clear from the prologue that the story has supernatural elements. Now, this is not to say that you can't write a story where the 'super' elements don't come in till a bit later. In fact, I think with supernatural that is almost obligatory, certainly common: the slow-burn build to revelation: establish the norm before turning it upside down. I hope so, because I'm writing a novelette that probable would be described as supernatural, and blow my down if it isn't a romance too, and the first 15 pages are pretty darn normal. Yeah, I'm not sure Ive got the hand of brevity yet!! Glad the comments are useful
  6. I think the outline does confirm this, personally. An outline--for me--is not just a summary of each chapter, it's the thread that holds the whole story together, and it encapsulates the plot, how the main character changes during the story, and takes in critical events (but most definitely excludes non-critical events). That's what I consider a effective outline to be. Non-critical events can be included in chapter summaries, but I think they just bog down an effective outline. It's not just a matter of making what you have shorter. I think that's the problem. I don't think the chapter revisions are addressing the problems that people are having with the story. Have you written any short fiction? That is a great (and classic) way to develop the skills needed to tell any story, especially larger, more complex stories (i.e. novels). There is no room to hide in a short story. Clarity is essential, singularity of purpose a requirement, and there is no room whatsoever for material that doesn't contribute to the story.
  7. Thanks for sharing this. It pretty much confirms what we've seen in the chapters, I think, in that there is no clear through line, no clear theme, nobody acting with any particular clarity of purpose. What is the story in one sentence? Is it something like 'The laws of magic are broken. How can one princess, beset by opponents and the strictures of her society, change the world? Perhaps the only with the help of the reclusive and enigmatic Prince A, although him involved, who knows what might happen?' I know that more of a cover blurb, but my point is that I think an outline has to have a clear vision of what the story is, and the things that are not the story. Do you know what your climactic final scene is, what the big set pieces are through the story? I think your outline needs to be shorter. Dispense with all the detail, and just have one sentence for each chapter, which is the arc of that chapter: beginning, middle, and end. Not everyone is an outliner, but one should still know what the arc of a chapter is, even if it's not written down. And it should be short, a concise summary of how the chapter will move the plot forward towards the next set piece, or the ending.
  8. 1. - Probably I've covered this, but, in summary, I'm not sure engaged is the right word, not. I'll stick with intrigued. 2. - No. Not even slightly. 3. - No. If you can't make a new character threatening and villainous as they appear for the first time in the book, you've got big problems. You should not need a whole prologue to introduce a character for later, IMO. 4. - I don't understand. Where does that appear in the submission? 5. - I was sort of curious to see where the story was going, but, from what you describe it seems it's the story of the romance between the son who has Huntington's and the sheriff's daughter? "I also don't know if straight teen romance is super appealing for this group." This is a SFF genre fiction group. What do you mean by 'straight teen romance'? Do you mean it's not SFF, but a contemporary 'straight' romance? That would not be of any interest to me, TBH. Or, do you mean it's a straight (i.e. binary / CIS) SFF romance? Unless I've missed something, this is a writing group, that's what it is. It is not a writing group with any mandated orientation. It is a writing group that welcomes all and sundry, but favours none, I trust.
  9. Title I think titles are important. They very much set my expectation for project. My assumptions don’t always turn out right, but I still make them on the basis of the title. This one is…interesting. It sounds like a Harlequin romance title. My expectations are…undecided. Character engagement MA comes over really full of himself, cocky, but not in a good way, for me. By the time I get to the foot of page 1, I’m hoping someone gives him a slap. Then I see that he’s looking for a favour? Not a good way to approach someone who you want to do something for you. Story / plot engagement I was engaged by the discussion, the pace of the debate—although I was confused in places—but the energy carried me forward. In terms of story and plot however, I got basically no real concrete sense of what the story is about. I got what the scene was about, read that at face value. Although, towards the end, it all seemed kind of pointless, since he concludes that he’s going to get what he wants anyway, so what was the point of the confrontation? Setting engagement There is very little on setting at all, so I have to assume it’s basically contemporary or near future. I don’t know where I am, either, but again, it seems like a generic American setting, and that’s fine, I can assume that. The thing I have a problem with is that the nature of the world is not set up. There is talk of ‘creature’ and ‘like a real person’ (page 1), then there is talk of magic, but none of these things is set up. Maybe this prologue is tended to be the setup, and if that’s the case, it’s very light on specifics. Are there non-human creatures in the world, or is it just MA’s analogy for something else. Is there actually magic? Unclear. “this outside world” – I don’t really understand the set up. There’s talk of villages and communities, but never any names. This makes it all sound vague and impersonal, which is hard to get engaged with. It makes the conversation ring less true also, since these places must have names, surely, names that people would use in a conversation as shorthand so that they did not have to say things like ‘that community in which you grew up’. Prose style / quality So, my (new) system is to start with 10 marks and delete one each time I come across something isn’t right, in my assessment. I won’t go into specifics, because this is not a line edit. I think I might tend to forget to score down, so maybe this will turn out to be artificially high! I dunno. Still trying to find a way to cure myself of detailed line edits, and this is all I got, so far. - Typos: 7/10 – not much at all, pretty smooth read in terms of language - Readability: 9/10 – see above - Enjoyability: 7/10 – I did enjoy the cut and thrust of the discussion - Word choice: 9/10 – I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing, and his advice is use the first word that comes to mind, as it’s no doubt the one you thought the best - Grammar: 7/10 – again, pretty clean, which was nice. Clarity / confusion After one page, I’m not clear what’s going on. Something to do with plants, and drugs. I’d rather have a clearer idea of the situation. There’s no mystery here, just a lack of explanation, IMO. E.g. ‘Classic set piece’ – what classic set piece? Unclear. “must have found a loophole” – A loophole in what? Unclear. Specific issues “Knowing the incompetence of rich people” – This is lazy, characterising all ‘rich’ people as incompetent makes her look shallow and unsophisticated. The world is a far more complicated place. Also, define rich. $80k a year, $150k a year, $500k a year? See? However, characters are allowed to be careless, lazy, have poor grammar, etc. So, maybe this is what is intended. Why doesn’t she just lie to get him off her case? His strategy in his questioning appears to be that she will not be willing to lie about it if he asks her the right question, which is pretty naive, IMO. Things I enjoyed The verbal jousting was enjoyable. The dialogue was fast-paced and, although I found a lack of clarity in places, I did enjoy the pacing, and the tone of the conversation, (despite the fact that I didn’t like either character). Things I disliked Her calling him Mr. CEO every time she referred to him got old very quickly. Made her sound snide. “Parental instinct is such a fickle thing” – It’s not though, not at all, not even slightly. My daughter is 26. Biggest issue(s) Nothing hugely objectionable. My biggest issues is the lack of clarity on the set up. I’m still no clearer as to whether there is real magic in the world, and whether the Professor really is an inhuman creature. I don’t feel that I’ve got a solid foothold in the story, and that’s not good at this point. Would I keep reading? More out of curiosity then any liking for the characters. MA was particularly unlikeable, but I didn’t care greatly for the doctor either. Overall impression Intriguing, without being engaging. I don’t like knot knowing what kind of story I'm reading, and that would carry me a bit further, just to try and get some sense of what is actually going on. Thanks for sharing with the group
  10. So, apropos of not a great deal, I'm putting this here instead of at the head of all my upcoming critiques. I just can't process the amount of critiquing that I do now from week to week and continue at the level I was producing in terms of calling out inconsistencies, line-level stuff. 60 minutes plus per critique just isn't sustainable when I'm trying to do my own writing, and to push harder at that writing. Being in a second writing group doesn't help! Having said this, I hate the thought of not completing all the crits (gotta collect them all). So, I'm going to work on a new technique--possibly based on a pro forma--and see how that goes. My crits might come over more superficial, I'm afraid, but hopefully still will be useful. I very much doubt they will be any less direct Happy writing!
  11. Suffer(ing).
  12. Recall.
  13. Lament.