Charleston · Writing

A damn fine critique of SNM

Thanks to my amazing coworker, Craig Knowlton, I have the first “official” edit of my novel, SNM. Yes, there have been about a half-dozen readings already (and I’ve loved the feedback from everyone!), but Craig is an ex-college-English professor who used to terrorize students with sarcastic banter and evil writing assignments. (Insert villainous laughter here.) Anyway, he came up with some useful pointers for me and for writing, in general. I thought I’d share these comments with you “writer people” out there…


First, a recap of SNM:


There’s revenge. Then, there’s really fun revenge. Just ask Susan Welsh…


After breaking up with a virginity-stealing, cheating piece of human waste, Susan initiates a social experiment with her two best friends. In an effort to escape future heartbreak, the three women impart on six months of no dating, no phone numbers, and no commitment—just sex, drugs, rock-and-roll. They become the Saturday Night Manhunters, begging the question “Is it possible to prevent a broken heart?”


Now, from the much-appreciated critique of my novel SNM:


1) Ellipses can be distracting and weakening. They indicate an indiscernible passage of time, a pause or something left out, and the reader wonders, “What happened?” Most of you sentences or quotes ending in ellipses could be more effective with a period because the conversations are fast and bold, rather than self-conscious or trailing off….


2) The book is about Susan’s relationship with Charleston (as well as her maintaining friendships, forsaking love, fighting love, falling in love, avoiding empathy, soul searching, self-serving, and self-reformation). She has been living here for a long time, enough time for the city to change in ways she dislikes or criticizes as well as supports. Make sure the reader develops a functioning city-sketch in his/her head. You tend towards the superlative. Places are Susan’s favorites; people are gorgeous and look amazing. Develop more gray area, judgment, subtlety. You love Charleston, and part of your view is its newness and consequent excitement, but Susan may have more defined opinions.


3) Use each revisit to a setting–bars, office, Kudu, Mellow Mushroom, Shem Creek, Vanderhorst Street–to renew, reaffirm, or reveal something about place as well as plot. How is it different than last time; how does Susan’s mood make it different? There is lots of drinking and eating. You do a great job with the ceremony of drinking but expand it to eating: describe food, girls lunches, holidays, AC’s take-out-window-waiting on your number for chili fries, the flaming soup bowl at Basil, cheeseburger sliders at Chai’s, etc. You don’t have to go overboard, but hands, mouths, sounds, scents, and flavors of these events will add texture alongside your great descriptions of people and action. Susan is observant and detailed about people; expand this to other things. She is very affected by the people around her, and that’s the way it should be, but by detailing the world around her you’ll reveal either her aloofness or expand her keen observations.


And my favorite overall impression from Craig:

The most important component of a story is to have the reader want to turn the page, and SNM does that.


Some great info for writers out there! And plenty of new work for Ms. Sara Dobie! Thanks, Craig!

3 thoughts on “A damn fine critique of SNM

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