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Deconstruction May 23, 2010

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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Through a fortuitous chain of events and people, my manuscript for my science fiction novel ‘Bow Shock’ found its way into the hands of Jason Fischer, Live Journal. He so very kindly offered to critique my novel and provide some feedback. AS he said to me, it would be tough love. There is no point having a critique just saying – yeah that’s nice, I like that bit. Personally, I wanted someone to look at the work and say – that doesn’t work and why. That doesn’t work and why.

That’s not to say I can’t also receive feedback to say – that worked really well. We all enjoy positive feed back and hugs.

The critique was emailed back to me while I was away. Something to look forward to with excitement and trepidation upon my return, a feeling which was delayed due to lack of internet.

At the top, I would like to say a big thank you to Jason for doing this for me. It is very hard to break into being a published author. Any help and guidance you can get is awesome, and I totally appreciate what he has done for me. The feedback he has given me is fantastic. It has given me renewed energy to work on my manuscript to make it better and stronger.

So, on to deconstructing my manuscript, and what I need to do. I wrote this story with 3 story arcs. The arc of my MC Jarred leaving his job and going to his new job on a frontier world in a small mining village, being attacked and escaping; the second arc of the return journey to reap revenge and rescue the hostages; and an introduction to each chapter of Jarred, a former history teacher getting a bit drunk and presenting an impromptu history lesson in a bar. These story arcs ran parallel in the book and would be included in each chapter.

(The following books in the series did not follow this convention)

I wrote like this as a sort of challenge to myself. I saw this style of story telling in a tv show and wanted to give it a go. I enjoyed linking parallel arcs with each other throughout the book.

It doesn’t work. The journey to the planet and setting up of Jarred in his job, a whole lot of wasted air. The story didn’t start UNTIL he reached the planet. There is no point in writing all those words of a novel if you don’t start at the start, so to speak. You need to recognise where the story starts and what is back-story. Back story can be used later, but it will bore the reader to read through the whole thing. There is no reason for the reader to care.

Next, my main character – Jarred Leraar. I like him, and perhaps my like of him may cloud my view of him. This is why an independent reader is great. Throughout the story, Jarred does nothing. He does not change as a character. He ends the story pretty much the same way he starts it, pretty much powerless. Sure, he escapes a pirate attack, manages to get back and help out the people of Dekkett, the mining village he once worked in, but as Jason pointed out, it was pretty much one of the second MC’s, Martin, who did all the work, all the saving and drove the plot.

Now, while I do like the character of Martin, he is not the one meant to be driving this plot. He does have his own agenda, his own mystery. And after Jason’s comments regarding Martin, and the motivations of the story, I have plans for Martin. Darker plans.

But back to Jarred… I need him to take control. He needs to make decisions. He is Captain of the ship Ter Vitas because he bought the ship with his money. But that is not making him a leader. He does not LEAD the group. This is an aspect I need to change for him in this book.

And the biggest piece of critique given was the motivation for the whole story. Saying that here seems a bit harsh, it implies Jason didnt like my book or something. But no, I agree with him. I originally wrote this book during National Novel Writing Month. You dont really have time to think of everything, and when I was writing it I thought – Tax Break! Save Money! Avoid Tariffs! And let it go at that.

In reality? This isn’t good enough. When you have a universe to play in, a simple tax dodge is lame, pure and simple. I need to find a reason, a GOOD reason, why a company would attack itself in such a way. This is proving to be the biggest issue to come out of the critique.

What am I doing about this feedback?

… to be continued…



1. Jason Fischer - May 25, 2010

Hey dude, thanks for your thanks! Hope you find the crit useful, sounds like you’re well on your way to pulling the novel apart and getting the next draft happening. Good luck with it all mate, let me know how you go. Thanks for sharing your worlds/words with me 🙂



2. Reconstruction « Matthew Farmer - May 25, 2010

[…] mentor, novel, writer, writing inspiration trackback Following on from my previous entry – Deconstruction, what am I doing with all the […]

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