Honest Critiques

No, I mean it. REAL honest. Email your excerpts or full stories, up to 1000 words or so, to honestcrits [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk. Synopses would also be welcome. My backlog is so daunting now that I recommend not submitting anything you are not prepared to wait a couple of months for a response on.
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  • Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    All the Fun of the Fair

    The London Book Fair's on at the moment. I went yesterday. I don't have much business to do there, other than wander about looking at what everybody else is publishing.

    One thing you do see quite a lot is that other publishers do pick up on books that you've rejected; happened to me twice yesterday, big posters plastered all over the stands advertising books I felt we couldn't publish for one reason or another. The lesson to draw from that is that being rejected (or accepted) by a publisher isn't necessarily about the quality of the book. It's about how many copies a publisher thinks they can sell, and one house might be better set up to market a book, or just feel more bullish about it. Quality feeds in to that, but there is another set of factors, enabling us to account for the success of Jeremy Clarkson. (My money's on an infernal Faustian pact.)

    Anyhow: the next crit I'm going to post, before the end of the week, is not in fact the top of the queue I gave you the other day. Ian submitted a short story to me just before the first one on the list, called A Game of Chess, which I didn't want to post in its entirety (only about 1K words) for fear of 'publishing' it. I didn't want to pull bits out of it either as it wouldn't really work. So Ian's posted it over at the forums on Absolute Write in the Share Your Work > Literary folder. Off you go and have a look. I'll tell you what I think soon...
    Torgo, 1:50 pm

    14 Comments:

    So, is the fair for only publishers and retailers or is this for the obsess. . . casual reader as well?
    Blogger Rick Jones, really, at 6:15 pm  
    Torgo, I tried to go there and read the story, but it said I needed a password. Oddly enough, the password I use for my login didn't work. Any suggestions?
    Blogger Rick Jones, really, at 6:18 pm  
    Anyone can go to the fair, but mainly it's publishers and booksellers feverishly doing business.

    The password is 'vista', by the way. I think it tells you that somewhere on the board, but if you clicked my link, you wouldn't have seen it... think you only have to enter it once and it gives you a cookie for re-entry.
    Blogger Torgo, at 6:34 pm  
    I have been to these fairs, conventions - funny to watch the reactions, the anxiety ... I don't mind moving down on the list. The older I get the more patience I have - who'd a thunk it, smile. Off to read the story ... gleeful, I love stories!
    Joyce
    Anonymous Joyce Wakefield, at 8:16 pm  
    I went, I read... I am not sure what to say about it. I thought the writing was good overall, with only a few spots here and there where I thought something could be tightened up just a hair. Still, to me, good writing.

    The story itself, however, didn't do anything for me at all. Not much of a plot. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't read it but I wasn't surprised at all.

    Overall impression: Good writing, but the story was not for me.
    Anonymous David McAfee, at 10:35 pm  
    Some of the imagery was nice; maybe a little much at times though. I didn't have David's ability to predict the ending, but I did think that the plot was slight. My main issue was why use a narrator? What is the story revealing about him/her? I couldn't see any personality or development, and so wondered why he/she was there at all, when you could use an omniscient voice.

    Well, Torgo wanted input... If I've stuck out my nose too far feel free to tell me to get back to my eucalyptus tree.
    Blogger McKoala, at 2:58 am  
    Hey! I've already commented on this, without prompting. Do I get brownie points?
    -Barbara
    Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:57 am  
    Overall, the writing was good but to me, it seemed more like the opening of a novel than a stand-alone story itself. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I wanted to know what happened next with this triangle.

    Probably the weakest part for me was that it seemed generic. It takes place in a "cafe" (where? London, Budapest, New York?) where "teaspoons rattle" and waiters are "pirouetting like bullfighters round the crowded tables."

    I could see a literary magazine in the states publishing this but it would have to be punched up a little first.
    Blogger The Gambino Crime Family, at 11:40 am  
    Some lovely imagery there. But I think I'd have to respectfully disagree with another commenter -- I'm not sure a specific location is important. It seems as if the story could be anywhere and whether it's London or New York or San Francisco doesn't matter. (Besides, would a concrete location change, influence, or otherwise affect the story at all?)

    Even so, it's not really my cup of tea as far as short stories go. The imagery was great, and I enjoyed the writing and the style, but the plot left me a little flat. The characters' physical descriptions were gorgeous, but it was difficult to glean anything about their characters. I kept wanting to like or dislike someone, or at least feel something for either of them, and I didn't. Now, perhaps this was part of the point -- the characters being paralleled with the chess-pieces. But still, I would've liked a bit more personality from someone.
    Blogger Bunneh, at 1:00 pm  
    The story tries too hard to be serious . . . to be more than just a story. Comes across as achingly aware of itself.
    Anonymous Anthony P. Steerpike, at 6:31 pm  
    Hmmm, this is not my cup of tea either, but I did not stop reading. That in itself means I was intrigued enough to keep going.

    What did give me a jolt was when the woman was described as all soft edges, and the man as black and white--then poof, he is the one slouching and she is the one with the rigid posture.

    In my humble opionion of this short, I feel it would have been better to leave the woman with all the soft edges and the man as sharp. To me that would make the contrast of him versus her new lover very distinct.

    But what do I know? LOL
    Blogger harridan, at 8:29 pm  
    I thought A Game of Chess started too abruptly, more like directions for an opening screenplay rather than a story.

    I would have liked the information about the narrator that comes later on in the story in the sentence:"It is a week later and I am sitting at the same table," to be placed within the first paragraph so that I know who and where sooner. I'd be more likely to eavesdrop along with the narrator that way, than expanding energy trying to make sense of the opening. Otherwise, it's difficult for me to be interested in listening to a description of two people playing chess preovided by an unknown narrator.

    I think if the author gave us more in the beginning, perhaps a reason why the narrator is drawn to them, in the first place (without giving anything away), then the story would work better for me.
    Blogger Stephen Newton, at 9:57 pm  
    From a woman's point of view...I was entertained...didn't see the end coming, nice twist!

    The present tense started out a little jarring, but I got used to it.

    Only one inconsistency that threw mw...at the end, the narrator could see the fine down of golden hairs on the girl's arm, but he wasn't close enough to hear the conversation!

    Good flash fiction, but me the consummate reader wants to know more...is there another twist, or was this second picture a facade? LOL...just me!
    Blogger Bonnie Calhoun, at 3:45 am  
    Any other computer illiterates who can't find the story, what's Ian's surname? A GAme of Chess in search doesn't bring it up.
    Blogger Amanda Mann, at 12:37 pm  

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