Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In which my writing gets critiqued by none other than Mark Lawrence

I don't make a habit out of searching for my name on Facebook, but something made me do it this time, and it's a good thing I did. I would have missed it for another day or so otherwise.

In case you don't know it, in the beginning of November, Mark Lawrence, the author of The Broken Empire and The Red Queen's War trilogies, offered to critique the first page of fantasy novels on his blog, provided writers were brave enough to send them to him.

Now, I do happen to have a fantasy book in the works, but it's the second book in the series, and he specifically said no to that. It wouldn't have worked, not to mention it's an urban fantasy with fairies, so not what he writes. I flirted with the idea of sending him something, but I didn't have anything else written since I tend to work on one project at a time. I told myself I didn't have time for this and chances were slim for him to pick exactly my page to critique out of the +100 pages received. Then last week, before starting on the daily word quota, I opened a blank document and started typing because, you see, on my upcoming work list, there is an epic fantasy novel idea I'm very fond of (not only an idea, about 60% of the plot is already sketched in my plot files) and that will get written hopefully soon.

Since I knew how the novel would start as I usually do, writing 500 words was easy. The difficult part was cutting the excess words and cramming in all the info I wanted to transmit. In the final draft, this opening will be slightly changed and extended to add a few introspective thoughts and set the context, but no more than 100 words or so. I had someone proofread the text (more on this later lol) since Mark's following is way bigger than mine and the text had the potential to be read by plenty of strangers, and then I sent it, not holding my breath for an answer.

I only discovered the critique now, after a random FB search. It started off well, with me laughing out loud at a comment made by Mark regarding a typo that both I and my proofreader missed. This is the best way to start reading a critique. After this, nothing could ruin my mood.

As far as the critique goes, he does have several good points, some things I missed, some I had a feeling they didn't sound right but left them the way they were anyway as I would have needed a longer break and then look at the text with fresh eyes to fix them. It's a well-rounded critique, milder than a lot of the stuff I received on Critique Circle when I had two novels critiqued there, and I found every single line useful. I'm sure his comments will be helpful when I get to write the next draft. 

Plus, I'm not at all against being compared to Diana Wynne Jones. :) I was a little surprised to see his readers express their willingness to read more since the story starts on the light side, so different from Mark's works, but their instincts weren't wrong. While the story starts light, it will get serious soon and even dark in places. My writing is lighter in general, but despite me not being a big horror fan, my readers know I slip into gore a couple of scenes per book more often than not.

The first page of The Hollow Mage and the critique can be read on Mark's blog. I don't know when I'll get to write this novel. First, I need to finish The Strength of a Heart (urban fantasy, so if you came here from Mark's blog, it's probably not for you :P). Next year, I also have to write the last book in Broken People series (do give it a try even if it's not your favorite genre, I'm awfully proud of it :) ), but in between these two, I can squeeze something else. The Hollow Mage, a sci-fi (short) novel, and a YA/NA fantasy novel are in the running for that spot. They're all three on the upcoming writing list, only the order isn't decided yet. Oh, and the cover art for The Hollow Mage is my favorite so far. :)

Thank you, Mark, for taking the time to critique my page! Not only you helped improve my story, but you also made my day. And I promise you there are no vampires in this book. One vampire series was enough for me. :)

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