Well that was interesting. In less than 24 hours after dealing with the last MS, my mother had a major seizure and fall and I’ve been at the hospital for most of the time and on leave from work. After thinking I’d be planning a funeral, my mother’s prospects have improved. She even opened her eyes today quite a number of times. So I’m feeling very positive about her prognosis.
Regarding manuscripts. My final tally was 13 recommends as number 14 became a represented ms and goes direct to the editors. I found that out after reading it and telling the author I was going to recommend it. It was a good read so I can’t complain really.
Since finishing reading I caught myself dreaming I was reading an ms. I guess it will take me a while to recover and adjust to living without having to read on such a large scale and with such a concentrated effort.
So what did I recommend? I can’t give you specifics and you have to remember I read fantasy mostly.
I recommended one SF novel.
I recommended one trad fantasy/ steam punk meld
I recommended a three of traditional fantasies
I recommended three contemporary/urban fantasies
I recommended one horror/thriller type novel
I recommended one new weird type detective alternate future
I recommended one food fantasy (my term)
I recommended one jungle fantasy (my term)
I recommended one dark traditional fantasy (nice and nasty)
For those of you interested in where these authors are from, I’m done a quick count. However, I read manuscripts from all over the world, including South America and South Africa.
- Australia – one
- USA – four
- Canada – five
- Britain – three
However, I did notice two Australian’s in Amanda’s blog post.
So what did these very different mss have in common?
- Good execution, some amazingly well-written with very little ms errors.
- Original slant/setting almost all had something like this, or if it didn’t it was so well done that I couldn’t pass up.
- Good pacing. I think they all had that, most to a high degree.
- Intensity of character, or at a minimum well drawn characters.
- Minimal backstory/info dumping, or at least well positioned and timely
- A mixture of dark, nasty, and some were optimistic. I tended to pick dark and gritty but not exclusively.
For the mss I passed up. I think I provided some level of comment on all full mss. Sometimes those comments were rather lengthy, some were shorter. In any event, I tried to elaborate on what the issue was. Remember sometimes it was just fit. In a couple of cases, I passed on perfectly good manuscripts because of the current list of publications and proposed publications for Angry Robot Books. This was sad for me and more so for the authors. I do trust those mss to find a home soon.
Some general issues in the second lot of full mss. Pacing was one. For example, the opening was nice and tense and then it would dissipate. This happened for a number of reasons:
- General slowness of action due to style of story telling, amount of detail, or nothing happening to advance the plot
- Issues with world building as in doesn’t stand up or push the boundaries of credibility or reasonableness
- End of story is world’s apart from beginning, so set up at the beginning and lack of foreshadowing (I now realize this is still a problem in one of my mss)
- Introducing too many characters too quickly and without adequate context to settle the reader, allow the reader to care about the character or just adding to the general confusion
- Difficult story arcs, which cause structural issues for the story sometimes leading to predictability or foundering of the story
- Not ready for publication yet, that is the story has a beginning, middle and end but the prose is rough in a number of places, scenes have not been exploited for the action or emotional impact, or more generally a high level of errors, typos, wrong words, missing words, incomplete sentences, untidy, unfinished, perhaps even slackness in a couple.
- Unoriginal in many ways, introducing well worn tropes without introducing something new.
Some of the recommended mss were very well polished. I read them with a sense of awe, particularly the care taken with the world building and the polish to the prose. In reading them, I felt that I had something to aspire to in my own mss.
I’m not sure I have much else to say, rather than repeating what an amazing opportunity reading submissions was and also at the same time, very intense and draining.
Writing comments is not always easy. Sometimes it takes a while to actually pin point what the issues may be and where improvements could be made. I admit to once or twice having a general feeling of an ms not being quite right and then considering it for days to work out what I might say. Responding to an ms requires analysis and creativity. It is not something I could do lightly or while I watched tele, but required concentration and immersion.
So best of luck to those recommended. I will keep an ear out for those who make it to publication. For the rest of us, it’s back to the computer, back to our mss, and continue to write and refine our work.
I’m hoping to put up a few interviews with editors in the coming months and with authors who use first readers, sometimes called beta readers. I’m hoping these interviews will be useful in providing insight into the editing/writing world.
Next up some memories and photos of Colin Harvey, who passed away last week.