Operation Concrete

bodlian libraryI think I mentioned in a previous post that, upon my decision to actively work towards getting my novel published, I would be consulting the Oxford Editors to get it assessed by a professional author. Well, a few days ago I received my assessment through, as performed by Chehre Mosteshar, author of Unveiled: Love and Death Among the Ayatollahs.

At first I was a little surprised at who was elected to be my assessor, but then thinking on the nature of my novel, and how Chehre has been called a ‘trouble maker’ by Margret Thatcher and, said to ‘need sorting out’ by Tony Blair, for her political commentary, it became a little more clear. She’s obviously a talented journalist and author, with a few opinions that she’s not worried about voicing, definitely a good choice for my novel.

So, to the assessment and, in short, all I can say is that it is a very constructive review of my first nine chapters. I’m very happy with what I got back, and I’m thinking about revisions and editing already. Overall, I now know what I need to do to further my chances of getting the thing published, and in that regard, it was worth every penny.

In some more detail, I submitted the first 55k words of my novel for assessment, and I got back a 7k document – including excerpts for commentary – with detailed analysis on each chapter, character development, dialogue, process, mediums through which the story develops and such. Chehre opens with a synopsis of her analysis, which I thought was great, and in which she very quickly produced some real insight, both kind and critical, but always constructive, for instance:

“This is a book written with enormous imagination and literary dexterity. It is always well written and the imagery is accomplished, original and exciting. However, it is bogged down in part with exploration of emotion at the expense of story and plot. The central theme is fascinating and it combines social comment with philosophical questions that are at the heart of our very existence.” - Chehre Mosteshar

How amazing is it to hear something like that? Absolutely brilliant. Instantly letting me know that I have both; something decent for all my effort, but there are issues that need to be tackled. I couldn’t have asked for anything more really. The assessment continues along the same vein really, there is a lot of good in what I have written, but there are issues with the way it is written.

At a fundamental level it’s helped me realize that, as an experiment in self-exploration, the book has worked almost perfectly. A lot of the prose takes place in the minds of the characters, as they think, rather than do. Which, for any reader other than myself, is a fundamental problem as the novel lacks, in part, forward moving action. In this regard, I know now that once finished I’ll need some revision, but critically, what sort of revision. To turn what are large episodes of thought and cognition into actions that push the story along for the reader, keeping them continually excited and consumed.

I now know that I can do it, I have absolute confidence in myself now, I’ve just got to change a few things. I know my peers have enjoyed reading my work so far, and have generally come back with the same results as Chehre. I feel now that I’m going to write two novels, one for me, and one for the reader, one that is pure thought and emotion, one that pulls that out into real white knuckle action. Outstanding.

So, to round up, I’ll say, if you think you’ve got a good idea, and you think someone looking at it with keen and professional eyes will help you out, I thoroughly recommend the Oxford Editors. They’ve been a pleasure to deal with, and I hope I will soon get to have a sit down with Chehre to discuss my work in person, which, as I’m based in Oxford, is entirely possible. Perhaps not if you’re based abroad, but I guess if you’re willing to travel they’d be happy to accommodate. william blake

Overall, I’ve been moving on with the novel, I’m on the final chapter now, 2k words in, and with a total word count now of about 75k. It’s thrilling, but not giving me much time to blog, I’ll get posts up on a more regular basis once I’ve come to revisions I think. But, for now, I’ve got some clear direction, I know where I’m heading, I know what I have to do to complete my task of; answering a few of my own questions, and getting the thing published.

It feels great.

This posts aspirers’ mark is slightly off topic, but I came across her blog the other day and thought I had to cover her.  She’s Claire Askew, from One Night Stanzas, and although, yes, it is primarily a poerty blog, it’s very well done with some very helpful posts, information and opinion on everything from being a writer to publishing and inspiration.

I’d say, if you’re a poet, brilliant, if you’re not, it’s great anyway and might just spark some poetry within you as well.

And on a side note, I was interviewed about my blog and my novel by Sylwia Presley over at her eponymous blog, which was very cool, have a read if you want to know a little bit more about me.