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hairy jesus

Hairy Jesus' First Novel...

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It was pretty rubbish but considering you seem to have dismissed constructive criticism there is little point anyone else pointing out flaws. It was just a boring mess of a read. There may be an interesting story in there but you have to work through so much superfluous and repetitive stuff I doubt many readers would bother.

That sounds harsher than it is intended.

I think that's really out of order. It takes a lot of courage to put something creative out there and ask for feedback, even for someone that loves attention as much as hairy_jesus. You'd probably be quite hurt if you wrote something and someone said the same to you.

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It was pretty rubbish but considering you seem to have dismissed constructive criticism there is little point anyone else pointing out flaws. It was just a boring mess of a read. There may be an interesting story in there but you have to work through so much superfluous and repetitive stuff I doubt many readers would bother.

That sounds harsher than it is intended.

Wasn't offended by that at all... just tried to put my style of writing in some kind of a context to explain the bits people might not like or might have problems with. My intention is not to post something and ask everyone to say "praise me"... I've reread what I've written tonight and agree that quite often the whole thing seems to swerve away into long winded descriptions of a drain pipe that's spewing out rain water... I've tried to convey monotony far too literally and sometimes seem to fly off into a pastiche of another writers style... so any criticism (as long as it is constructive) is more than welcome.

And Harmunt - who would buy you nice staplers if I gave up my day job ;)

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I think that's really out of order. It takes a lot of courage to put something creative out there and ask for feedback, even for someone that loves attention as much as hairy_jesus. You'd probably be quite hurt if you wrote something and someone said the same to you.

I wouldn't be hurt at all. I wasn't trying to offend HJ I was merely saying I didn't enjoy it. TSS came up with a lot of constructive criticism (even if it was worded rather sarcastically) yet much of it was ignored (or at least that was the impression I got). As a writer myself (I am an aspiring scriptwriter) I get my work critiqued a lot, it is part of the whole process and is far more valuable than praise. It does take a lot of courage to post work up on a public forum but I'm sure HJ knew he would get some criticism. An honest reply is far better than a sugar coated lie.

HJ, I will try and write some proper criticism tomorrow for you.

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I was thinking of starting a short story to get me back into the swing of writing... it's a ghost story from the point of view of the ghost but it will probably be really stupid.

Do Writer's Corner, dude.

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I think HJ is being rude in this thread. People have given him advice and yet his reply is, "No, it's supposed to be like that!" and then he lists authors who have inspired him.

Well HJ, it you set out to write a load of boring twaddle then you nailed it first time.

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Firstly, I'm not a fan of reading unfinished extracts. By and large it doesn't really help the reader or the writer, but that is a personal thing. I won't pick out grammatical mistakes because I'm also shit at stuff like that. On with the (constructive) criticism.

-------------------------------------------

Joe decided to tell Daphne that he was going back to Ireland because it was plausible. (A very poor start. It almost turned me off reading the rest of the extract. It lacks any drive at all. It might say what you want it to, but there are ways of making it sound a little more interesting). The box still sat on the seat beside him and he patted it with his hand and gulped. The van, white in the low rusty autumn sunlight crept slowly through the brown leaves on the road in Daphne’s street and slowly came to a halt. (TSS' criticism of this is spot on. You repeat the word slowly in the same sentence and it is hardly the greatest descriptive word in the world. Secondly, I can't tell if the van is normally white or is it just because of the autumn sunlight?) At the door, Joe breathed out and wished that he had taken a pill or two or three to calm his shaking hands. He pressed his thumb sternly on the bell and waited. It resounded in the large rooms of the large house. (Large twice. Reading that sentence reminded me of that kids TV show about skeletons living in a dark dark house in a dark dark street etc) It seemed like an hour yet Daphne did not come to answer. Daphne’s shape wasn’t visible through the frosted glass of the door. (We know, you said she didn't come to answer the door in the preceding sentence. I know you are trying to be descriptive but the extract has a lot of pointless and dull sentences like this) He stood for thirty seconds and pressed again. For no reason, he pressed his thumb harder and the same sound reverberated around the same large rooms. (I think any reader over the age of 3 could have worked that out) The house seemed silent of life. This had never happened before.

As Joe sat in the traffic, waiting for the lights to change and for the people to cross and thinking of the zealots back at home, Daphne Celeste was stepping out of the shower feeling dazed with the thought of the jewellery box. With one leg in the shower and one leg on the cork floor, she extended a middle aged arm out towards the towel rack. ('A' middle aged arm? No matter how many times I read that sentence it sounds strange. As if she had borrowed someone elses arm as a joke) The arm was short and she stretched, the muscle extended, expanding the little dimples that looked like Satsuma peel on the inside of her sagging bicep. She caught the corner of a towel, her hair was still wet and a droplet of shampoo that she had missed stung her eyes shut. That’s how she died. Her right leg gave way, skidding on the lip of the shower and up the side of the glass screen. Simultaneously, her body twisted in mid air, her hands grasping for a floor, a wall, something that wasn’t there. As Joe ushered an old man to pull out from a junction with his headlights, Daphne Celeste’s head struck a solid aluminium cabinet that sat in the corner of the room. (I can't picture that death. I try and work out the layout of the bathroom but struggle. It is not a clear description). She died almost instantly, in the time it takes to bite through the flesh of an apple her vision flickered and she had died. (Don't say the same thing twice when once will suffice. Cut the 'she died almost instantly' part or rework the whole sentence) The noise was sickening but no one was there to hear. (If a head strikes a cabinet but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? :)) Surprisingly, there wasn’t much blood. She received a blow the equivalent of being shot by a 2.2 hunting rifle at two hundred and fifty metres. Her skull was broken and fractured beyond repair. Shards of bone had torn into her brain. The x-rays that confirmed the cause of death to be accidental looked like a firework display to the Pathologist.(It looked like a firework display yet there was not much blood? You have almost contradicted yourself in a matter of a couple of sentences)

Joe stood for three more minutes before feeling puzzled and he walked back to the van. (Poor descriptive word. Also try and stand outside a front door for three minutes, it is a long time.) He completed a little card that said “we called, you were out”, it had a cartoon version of him in the top left hand corner; a man in dungarees holding out an upturned thumb with a wink in his eye. He ticked the boxes that said he’d return tomorrow and scribbled his signature. It was the first time he had ever written anything to Daphne. He opened the letterbox and peered inside. He could see and empty corridor and an empty kitchen beyond the corridor but there was no Daphne. (We know the ground floor rooms are empty, we know Daphne is dead upstairs in the bathroom) He left the card and, after trying the doorbell one more time, he drove back to work and clocked out. This had never happened before. (This is one of the main problems with being critical with extracts. This sentence and its repeated usage is rubbish. It appears as if you can't articulate the sentiment in different ways. However it may have greater significance throughout the whole story, but in an isolated extract it just doesn't work). It was 3:00pm.

At home, Joe lived above a shop that sold shoes (shoeshop), he wrote a letter. It was short and rather abrupt but (You say the same thing twice in the same sentence. I also don't understand why you have 'but' in there either) it was to Daphne and it was to say goodbye.

Dear Daphne, (He almost wrote Celeste but hesitating he wrote “I”)(Wha'?)

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m sorry first of all for writing at all but I called around today with your delivery and you were not there. (His handwriting was untidy and he rewrote this several times, added words, took words out and rephrased. His words would never stay on the lines, they always floated like an undulating wave between them. A teacher at school had made him feel inferior in front of the whole class because of this. She made floating movements with her hands and said “Joseph, we can’t fly can we?” and she also suggested that Joe was actually left handed. It was the only explanation for such terrible writing.) I wanted to tell you something important that I’ve decided that I should do. I think you should know. I won’t be delivering any more parcels to you any more. I’m going back to Ireland to work with my Dad at the family farm. (the thought filled his stomach with fear and a great pit of loathing opened up in his head. He’d once seen his father hit a cow on the head with a twelve pound lump hammer. In one blow, practiced and precise, it struck the animal perfectly and Joe caught a glimpse of pride in his father’s eye as the cow collapsed in a heap of hooves and skin. Joe was never ill after that. )(Are we supposed to find that part funny because I did. I actually quite liked the passage but it doesn't really fit with the rest of the extract) My father has been asking me for a long time and I agreed last week.

I’m sorry. (he started a new paragraph and let the words “I’m sorry” hang there for ten minutes (You enjoy being very exact with time: 30 seconds, 3 minutes etc. It isn't very interesting to read though) as he made a cup of coffee, looked out of the window as the local shops were closing their shutters for the night.) I know you said you loved me but I don’t think you do and I have to go. You aren’t the reason for my leaving, it’s just that my Dad is getting old and he can’t do the things he used to do and he needs me.

Thank you for the presents and for being so nice to me. I hope you aren’t too upset.

All the best.

Joseph K Singe

X

(It isn't much of a goodbye letter to the woman he loves is it?)

He regretted the little “x” but sat down and reread his words and was satisfied he had written enough to explain.

At nine thirty he took his medication and a little extra, placed a glass of water by his bed and slept until the alarm woke him at five O’clock. On his way to the depot he bought a stamp from a vending machine and posted the letter, hoping that she’d understand; even if it was a lie.

Daphne was discovered at nine. A few minutes afterwards (So the first sentence is a lie) to be exact and was taken away by an ambulance. Martin was frantic. The sight of blood (But there wasn't much of it you said) and the sight of Daphne, contorted and cold and blue and dead. For hours he sat on the stairs with every thought of regret he had ever had jumping out at him. He was visibly shaken and thought that God was punishing him for his sins even though he did not believe in God at all. He shed no tears but his eyes were red raw through trying. He dialled Marina’s number over and over, never seeming to manage the final number 7. He didn’t want to be alone in a house where someone had died. Suddenly, he managed, almost by accident (It is unlikely to be an accident if he is trying to phone her. In fact the whole phraseology of these few sentences is wrong. You repeat over and over twice within a couple of sentences) to dial Marina’s number and she answered too quickly and Martin began to breathe heavily and sobbed “She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone” over and over. Marina was able to calm him down enough and told him to wait for her. When she arrived the door was still open and Martin was not calm. “What took you so long? What took you so long?” Martin was confused and in shock. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before.

----------------------------------------------------

I'm sure I have repeated much of what TSS has said but it is worth repeating. All the problems he pointed out are genuine problems and make the whole extract appear amaturish in the extreme. You contradict yourself, you regularly repeat words and phrases as if you can't find other ways of expressing the same meaning. You lack clarity in some description, especially the death of Daphne, and above all it is a rather hard slog to get through, especially as there is little payoff for the reader. I don't want to sound too harsh (although I know I probably have) but the extract needs a lot of work. I hope you do carry on though, it would be a shame not to, but you do need to take on board much of the criticism in this thread as 98% of it (I calculated it :() is worthwhile.

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Well, Hairy Jesus started writing a novel and has completed three whole chapters... here's an extract. Feedback would be most welcome - good or bad - not sure if I should just stick to the day job.

Hopefully some crit here for you.

Keep going. Nobody writes anything perfect first time around, but what's most important is to keep at it. As someone guilty of getting discouraged way too often, trust me on this.

I think the big thing that stands out from your piece is that it's over-written. I keep feeling that you could break it down to about half the length and still keep the sense of it if you didn't describe everything. For example, you have this section:

"The van, white in the low rusty autumn sunlight crept slowly through the brown leaves on the road in Daphne’s street and slowly came to a halt. At the door, Joe breathed out and wished that he had taken a pill or two or three to calm his shaking hands. He pressed his thumb sternly on the bell and waited. It resounded in the large rooms of the large house. It seemed like an hour yet Daphne did not come to answer. Daphne’s shape wasn’t visible through the frosted glass of the door. He stood for thirty seconds and pressed again. For no reason, he pressed his thumb harder and the same sound reverberated around the same large rooms. The house seemed silent of life. This had never happened before."

The information in this section is this: Joe's van rolled up the house, he rang the bell and waited. So, another way of writing this could be:

"The white van crept slowly through the autumn leaves and eased to a halt on Daphne's street. Joe wished he'd taken a pill or a drink as he walked uncertainly to her door. He rang the bell. It called through the house, but he heard no answer from within. He waited.

Impatient now, he rang the bell again, only to be greeted with the same silence. This had never happened before."

It's shorter, for one, and moves the moment on a bit more. Fiction writing can get overly florid, which means that its actually tiresome to read, and I think you're a bit guilty of that here. You also need to break down your paragraphs more. Changing paragraphs gives a sense of the movement of time in a story.

You also need a sense of where to focus our attention. For example, between the first and second paragraphs, I got tripped up wondering had time skipped forward or back. This is because the story is playing out like a movie in your head, and in a movie that's an easy jump to make. In books, it is not because the reader is not seeing the movie in your head.

So, Daphne is dead. This is important to us, of course, but you time-jump forward and back, and we have to muddle our way down through the paragraph of a very CSI-like paragraph of actions to find it out. It's not a good use of focus. Better would be to say it, but character.

Rather than:

"As Joe sat in the traffic, waiting for the lights to change and for the people to cross and thinking of the zealots back at home, Daphne Celeste was stepping out of the shower feeling dazed with the thought of the jewellery box. With one leg in the shower and one leg on the cork floor, she extended a middle aged arm out towards the towel rack. The arm was short and she stretched, the muscle extended, expanding the little dimples that looked like Satsuma peel on the inside of her sagging bicep. She caught the corner of a towel, her hair was still wet and a droplet of shampoo that she had missed stung her eyes shut. That’s how she died. Her right leg gave way, skidding on the lip of the shower and up the side of the glass screen. Simultaneously, her body twisted in mid air, her hands grasping for a floor, a wall, something that wasn’t there. As Joe ushered an old man to pull out from a junction with his headlights, Daphne Celeste’s head struck a solid aluminium cabinet that sat in the corner of the room. She died almost instantly, in the time it takes to bite through the flesh of an apple her vision flickered and she had died."

You could say:

"Daphne Celeste died as she lived. Awkwardly."

Voluminous description does not usually produce great results because it undoes tension, and it makes the reader wonder what it is that they are supposed to focus on. All stories function according to drama, but if you completely neuter the drama by being far too specific, yet unfocussed, then we will lose the mental image somewhere between the corner of the towel and the discussions of Joe's traffic problems, and so we won't really get it.

And that kind of thing.

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TSS has been more lenient than most English teachers would be - at least he didn't use his red pencil to add dozens of apostrophes and commas.

Indeed.

Also:

"Joe decided to tell Daphne that he was going back to Ireland because it was plausible."

I don't even understand that sentence.

He was going back because it was plausible? (and what would that mean)

It was plausible that he'd go back?

Telling her was plausible?

I'm guessing it's the first one, as that the only one that really makes sense, but it just doesn't read very well, and I don't think it conveys what it's supposed to (though I guess this may just be because "it is an extract") something like the following may work better though:

"It was plausible that he was going back to Ireland, so this is what Joe decided to tell Daphne."

"The box still sat on the seat beside him and he patted it with his hand and gulped. The van, white in the low rusty autumn sunlight, crept slowly through the brown leaves on the road in Daphne’s street and slowly came to a halt."

and, as everyone else has said, was it white in the low rusty sunlight? how? what?

There were others too.

Also, I gave up before the end. Too tedious to read due to being over written, and also difficult to read due to the poor punctuation. I had to re-read several sentences to try and work out where the punctuation should have been.

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I missed this the first time round.

Did the book make it to retail?

It's just been launched, but at the time, it was the first unpublished book ever to have won the Booker Prize. This has never happened before.

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HBO have just comissioned this into a new 8 part miniseries. I would like to say this has never happened before, but they do it quite often.

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