Every 10,000 words I send my chapters to published author and mentor Elizabeth Diamond for critique. Here’s her opening comment:
The first thing that struck me on reading through your work, Emma, is how much tighter and more concise your writing is since I first read it. There was a lot to recommend it before, but now and then there was a tendency to ‘over-write’ – which is so common in people who are fairly new to tackling long prose projects, particularly novels or memoirs. Although in these new chapters there are a few patchy and isolated instances of over-writing (by that I mean, telling things that we sort of already know or can work out for ourselves) they are so much rarer, and it’s really just a case of the odd sentence or two. So well done! I don’t know if this is because you took on board the points I made before, or if this is just a natural evolution of writing a lot – the more we write, the more honed our writing becomes, particularly on a first novel (by novel, read memoir in your case, and in this case the category of novelised memoir. (Have you read ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson or ‘When did you last see your father?” by Blake Morrison? If not, try and find the time some day. These are an excellent examples of novelised memoirs and it would be probably help you in final structuring of your work to make a point of reading in this genre.) Anyway, however you got there, you are definitely ‘find your voice now.’ It’s pacey, punchy and very readable. I definitely wanted to go on reading and find out what happens next!
This is what she said about the avocado scene:
I love the immediacy of the opening and the use of the imagery of the avocado to show the chemistry between them and his intention (conscious or otherwise) to seduce Emma. When he says “It’s so ripe,” we absolutely get it. There’s a delicious humour to this scene as well. It’s erotic, evocative and titillating! I’m wondering though, if we need the bit, “But I know it’s all part of the elaborate foreplay and I could show how much I liked it if I wasn’t so afraid.” The reader gets that its some sort of foreplay, and we’ve been told that Emma feels uncomfortable. Think about deleting it. Ending on ‘It’s just an avocado,” seems to say it all in an ironic way, because of course we know it’s not ‘just an avocado.’
And in the chapter that describes my return to the world after my first episode she comments:
The writing is tight, pacey, humorous in a quirky, edgy kind of way. The dialogue is great and the characterisations are good. It gives us a really good feel of the challenges Emma faces in her transition into her return to her ‘normal’ life.
Overall at the end she says:
Great, sharp, edgy and characterful prose. Well done! I really feel you are finding your own voice quite clearly in these new chapters, and it’s a sharp, contemporary edgy voice, with a quirky ironic humour.
How good is that?