The Five Pages That Changed My Life

Welcome back!

So I’m a little drunk and my hands are trembling opening the word document that contained my manuscript critique. I had expected 1 to 2 pages, per the service’ description. I peeked down at the lower tool bar and read “Page 1 of 5”

“Oh my God, this is five pages long!” I shouted to my husband.

This was the first sentence of my critique:

“This is a fun and imaginative romance fiction that will have substantial appeal to a target audience that enjoys the modern romance genre.”

Several words jumped out and soothed my nerves: ‘Fun’ and ‘Imaginative’. But ‘Substantial Appeal’ took my breath away. SUBSTANTIAL. But then I noticed the editor classified “Forty Times Platinum” as a Romance.

I had spent the better part of year, trying to make it sound like anything but a romance!

But the critique went on with more words of encouragement. And then the bomb dropped:

“Overall, therefore, you have the basics of a really good read. However, the novel, as it stands now, suffers badly from the pitfall of “telling” not “showing.”

‘Suffers badly.’ Ouch.

The next few pages had laid out the criticisms in detail:

“often Jen and the others are acting against a “blue screen” in your book.”

She likened the book to reading like a screenplay-made perfect sense. (See earlier posts.)

One of my mother’s comments was that I was too descriptive. So while I was wiping all of the unnecessary descriptions away, I was left with only dialogue. In all the people who read it, they never told me that they didn’t get a sense of what was going on around my characters. And I hadn’t seen it either.

But then I started paying extra attention to movies and television. I got what the editor was talking about. Characters just can’t talk non-stop with nothing else happening around them. That’s boring. And on the screen, actors don’t just stand there and talk.

Next the editor said I was “head-hopping.” In novels, apparently you cannot tell a story from two (or more) character’s perspective in the same part of the book. Any substantial chunk of a novel has to be told through one character’s perspective. And then you can jump. But you have to put in a key somehow to let the reader know the perspective has changed. This is done in movies and television all the time but apparently it’s a big no-no on paper.

It’s at this point that I picked up another book for help. And Seven Years to Sin– my FAVORITE Sylvia Day book- really came to my rescue. After reading my critique I was determined to prove the editor wrong about the ‘head-hopping’. I was sure I’d seen it in books. I was wrong.

Many authors devote individual chapters solely from one character’s perspective. Jodi Picoult does this a lot. And each chapter is titled with that character’s name. Personally, I think that’s been overdone. No offense to anyone- especially a master like Jodi.

The blue-screen fix was easy. The showing-not-telling comment was trickier, but again, a relatively easy fix, once I understood how to do it properly.


Tell: The glass of wine was half full.

Show: Christina lifted her glass, tilting her head back to catch the last of its contents.

The head-hopping was a big issue. I literally had thoughts popping in and out all over the place. And to me each character’s thoughts and views were important to telling the story the way I wanted to.

This sadly meant one thing.

I had to re-write my novel.


To be continued.

One thought on “The Five Pages That Changed My Life

  1. Uncle Jack says:

    I am no so so glad that I never wanted to write a book. I had no idea that there so many nuances! You must be praised for your perseverance. Kudos!

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