Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Notes To My CP About Her MS

It's been a few days since I've posted anything, mostly because I've been busy working on two of my CP's MSs and trying to get my own MS's synopsis nailed down. Well, I finished one of my CP's MS today and sent it off. She came back and asked me for my general thoughts on her MS.

Okay, here's the thing. I LIKE my new CP, she's really nice and there's just no way in hell I'd ever want to hurt her feelings. But... yes, there is always a 'but'... I pride myself on being the kind of person who can be counted on to tell the truth, even when the truth isn't what someone wants to hear. So if you don't really want to know if that dress makes your ass look big, for Heaven's sake, don't ask me; ask someone who you can count on to lie to you!

Since this particular CP just so happens to be crit'ing my MS right about now, I certainly don't want her to think I was being overly critical or anything about hers, because I don't want that to color the way she sees my own work. However, I DO want her to be honest with me, because if she's not, then what the hell's the point anyway? I mean, she could be really sweet and blow smoke up my ass and tell me how awesome my MS is and I'd feel fantastic.

That is, I'd feel fantastic until I start getting rejection letters out the wazoo (not for my query, but for my MS). If she's just really nice to me, it won't help me make my MS the best it can be before I send it out to agents who will  *x-ing fingers* be requesting fulls, once they read my soon to be perfect query *again, x-ing fingers*.

So, even though my notes to my CP may seem nitpicky at first blush, I find I hope she's just as 'nitpicky' with my MS. Because it's through that process I'll be able to hone my MS to a sharpness which will spear the attention and interest of agents around the world *grand applause*, or at least get someone's attention somewhere.

After tap-tap-tapping out my email to her, I had the brilliant thought (okay, maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's brilliant) 'others may benefit from my notes to her.' Because I know for a fact many of the things I noted about her MS are things one of my other CPs noted to me about my own MS and surely there are others out there who might also have some of these issues with their MSs.

So, since you've read this far, you may as well read on. The following is the redacted version of the email I sent my CP just a few minutes ago. I redacted it because it's not my place to blab details of her novel.

Keep in mind, this was the answer to her request for "any general thoughts? Did you like it? think it was so so? Parts to elaborate on? Characters?"

Hey CP,

Overall I like your plot. I like your characters too.

I think you could probably cut the conversations with CHARACTER WHO REALLY ISN'T CENTRAL TO THE PLOT, I think they slow things down and aren't really necessary to the plot, I know you added them to give us another demension to YOUR MC, but I don't think they help anything. If they hammered out some details about what was happening that would be different, but that's just  my opinion.

And even having read the end of the story, I still think you should remove the lecture by the biology teacher, just say YOUR MC remembers what she learned about IMPORTANT DETAILS ABOUT HUMAN ANATOMY in class, for teens this WILL suffice, I think I can safely guarantee it. I asked my 17 y/o and she agrees with me.

General thoughts: Hmmm... I told you I'd be really honest, but sometimes that's hard to do without sounding harsh, but I'll just be honest and hope you take it as I mean it and not as me being mean... especially since I'm really looking forward to hearing  your thoughts on my MS.... *smiles shyly*

I do think the MS could be tightened up. Here's why:

There are lots of filters ( http://robbgrindstaff.com/2011/07/do-you-filter-your-fiction/ )and a lot of telling not showing ( http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/showing/ ). Filters take your reader away from being in the moment; you want them to feel they are right there in the action.

I think there are a lot of words you don't need, in other words, your MS has some flab which could be trimmed. I did some of this with my edits, but there are probably still more. ( http://www.writerstreasure.com/concise-writing-tips/  &  http://casablancaauthors.blogspot.com/2012/07/toning-up-flabby-writing.html?spref=tw ) Keep in mind, at the end of my first draft my MS word count was 175k, I trimmed it down to 94k... that was A WHOLE LOTTA FAT!

Something I did with my MS was do a search through the MS on some of the words you may want to remove, 'weasel words' ( http://www.livewritethrive.com/2012/07/20/pop-goes-the-weasel-word/  &  http://wordsharpeners.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/words-writers-should-delete/ ). Words like:
check the links listed above for others.

Some other things I tried to do with my MS, even though I'm sure I didn't do it completely, was to remove weak verbs ( http://prosekiln.com/improve-your-writing-by-eliminating-weak-verbs/ ) and tried to keep from using too many passive verbs ( http://voices.yahoo.com/passive-voice-linking-verbs-wordiness-1986618.html?cat=4 ).

You have a lot of dialogue tags, which I think could and should be changed to either simply use 'asked' and 'said', or 'ask' and 'say' in your case, the rest I think could be changed to action tags and eliminate all, or at least most of, the 'other words for said and asked' ( http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/said.shtml & http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/2008/02/dialogue-tags.html ).

Some of the MS seemed a little stiff or formal for the story to be told from a teen's view. Something that may help with that is to read it aloud to yourself, if it seems awkward when you say it out loud, it probably seems that way to the reader as well. I did this ALLOOTTT with mine, and yet, still may have some places where it doesn't flow as well as I'd like it to.

I tried to make notes on some of the areas where I saw these things.

I did notice, after the first half it moved a lot quicker and was easier to be pulled in. Probably because you worked on that a little more before I got to it, so it was tighter already.

The pacing seemed all right overall. But you may want to check this out, and see for yourself if it's what you were going for ( http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/7-tools-for-pacing-a-novel-keeping-your-story-moving-at-the-right-pace ).

Okay, I know... that's a ton (but if you look at it, most of the text above is comprised of the links I added) :)

I know I told you this early on, but the reason I added the links was because I want you to go check them out, take time to read them over and look at your MS with these ideas in mind. Plus, this way you know WHY I'm saying what I'm saying... it certainly isn't because I'm the be all end all on wisdom in writing, in fact, the opposite is true. I found these really helpful and hopefully you will, too.

Now that I've given you my utterly unpolished honest opinions, please keep in mind: they are just that... my opinions. You can choose to use or discard any or all of them, and that's perfectly all right!
I think you've got the start of an amazing novel; it just needs a little more polish and shine.

Please don't hate me... I hope we're still friends and CPs.

You are awesome, don't forget that, and I really DO like your book,  even though with all the comments above you may think I'm overly critical, which is not at all what I'm trying to be.

I hope this helps you and doesn't discourage you. I DON'T WANT you to be discouraged. I want to ENCOURAGE you and EMPOWER you to make your novel the best it can be.

Take care, my friend,

So that's it folks, my notes to my CP on my general thoughts about her MS. I know there are a butt load of links, but if you can find the time to visit those links, I know you and your writing will be better for it.

Leave comments below and let me know what you think. Is there anything you find yourself saying or hearing from your own CPs which might benefit others to hear? Just as little FYI, I did let her know I was going to post these notes :). Have a fantastic week.


  1. I sometimes feel like I'm the tough one too. I often throw in a *don't hate me!* lol My CPs seem to take it okay though. Tough love :-)

  2. I sometimes feel like I'm the tough one too. I often throw in a *don't hate me!* lol My CPs seem to take it okay though. Tough love :-)

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Stacey! Yeah... but hey, someone's gotta do it, right?

  3. I think I've completely forgotten how to pull punches. Lol. I'm as honest as the day is long. However, I also think it is SO important to point out what DOES work and why, so the writer can make sure to replicate that as they go along.

    Excellent post, Kelley! Definitely one I'll refer back to in the future!

    1. You are right, of course, it's also good to comment on the possitives, and I did, in the actual MS with the comments along the sides.

      When I ran across something I liked or loved I always try to note that. This particular email was in reply to her request for "any general thoughts? Did you like it? think it was so so? Parts to elaborate on? Characters?" She already had the notes I'd made in her MS when I line edited it. :)

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting... you know you're at the top of my CP list!


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