Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unrequested Critique - Nayko Island

I've been ripping CD's lately, which gives me some downtime. That's how I carved out time to do some critiques. I think that I need to make some stock answers, or build a web site, or something, because I keep coming up with the same comments.

Unrequested Critique - Nayko Island 

I picked the most recent book posted in the Amazon Fantasy blurb thread.

Nayko Island is by Mikaela Misti-Taylor. Her author page lists this as her only book, published Decmember, 2012. The work is a novella.

Cover

The rough, mildly out-of-focus cover displays fairies and a unicorn, along with text in an obligatory fancy font. I will assume that the author used her own skills to produce the cover.

Formatting

The manuscript follows normal formatting.

Thumbnail Description

Doorway to an alternate universe for kids.

Blurb

Justin and Alex find a magical world through the swimming pool in the basement of their new home. This world gets turned upside-down when Alex gets kidnapped. Panic-stricken Justin has to go to extreme lengths to rescue his sister. He sets off in search of her, meeting several strange creatures, having to decide which ones to trust and learning to use his newfound magical powers along the way. Justin gets taught a lesson from the most unlikely sources. This is a story of magic, friendship, trust and a brother’s love.

Opening Paragraph

“Jenny!” called Mr Johnson. “Send in Mr Trigg and get me a double espresso with extra cream”
“Mr Trigg!” called Jenny over the PA system. “Mr Johnson would like to see you in his office, right away.”

Send this woman a proofreader. If I'm detecting proofreading issues, there's a problem.

The author should skip digression about the double-espresso. It's an unnecessary distraction. I would suggest a rewrite, but the entire preview needs a rethink far in excess of the first paragraph. The author should really start with the protagonists.

Writing

By the fourth paragraph, I had trouble following the story. The apparent jumps confused me. That's not good. Page one is where the author cakewalk the reader into the narrative. Instead, I was cakewalked into a confusing candy factory of no plot. In a work this short, you don't have time to ease the reader in. You drop the reader straight into the main characters.

I do like the authors voice when it comes through. Unfortunately, she writes with one hand over her mouth, making everything a bit of a mumble. No, text doesn't actually mumble, but she makes a valiant effort anyway.

If you remember three rules about writing, keep in mind:

Clarity
Clarity
Clarity

Clarity is high-upkeep woman. She is a merciless mistress who abandons you at the least provocation. I know this from personal experience. I've had a rocky affair with her for years. I can't tell you how often she's abandoned me in the middle of a paragraph. In the end, you suck it up and rewrite until Clarity is happy.

The author needs to hire a proofreader. (Note: Real writers use proofreaders. Proofing is an entirely different skill from writing.) LEARN from the proofreader. Note that I am not nitpicking. I don't' ding self-publishers for an error here and there. There were too many for me to ignore.

The overall work needs WORK. If this is the author's best foot forward, she needs a new foot. Writing is all about the reader. Have you delivered a good experience to the reader? The answer better be “hell yes” or the reader will walk away.

The author needs to think about what's important and not important in the narrative. That's always a hard question to ask of your baby, yet it is the only question that really matters. In short, we all need to take a chainsaw to our literary baby and do what's necessary. Our baby will be better off for it.

While this work accomplishes a successful first draft, needs many more revisions. Although some writers can write novel in two drafts, they are mutants. Most writers most can't produce a book in two revisions. I figure that 5-10 revisions is normal.

Additional Comments

At this point, I suggest that the author sit herself down and compare her novel to any professional novel and ask herself, “Does my work match professional quality?” If the answer is anything but, “Hell yes,” she needs to rewrite her story.