When we realized we had a gaping hole in the WU calendar for today, we asked a comic friend to write something up for us.
- “But I’m not a writer,” he said.
- “You are,” we said.
- “It won’t be right for your crowd,” he said.
- “C’mon,” we said. “Our crowd has a sense of humor, too. And it’s Saturday.”
He agreed. Though he insisted he remain anonymous.
I recently finished the draft of your historical fiction manuscript and offer my critique and some suggestions below. We have certainly had some rocky patches over the years as critique partners, but, as your brother-in-law, I’m glad we have worked through them and come to a better understanding of one another’s styles. As I mentioned previously, I will make a concerted effort to be more open-minded and less blunt with my opinions. So I don’t forget, my wife, your sister, has been gracious enough to emphatically reinforce this with me on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
Let’s start off with some positives! First of all, I really like the paper you used to print out your pages. Not too heavy, not too flimsy, and a slight ivory color that makes reading a real joy in both dim and bright light. Bravo on the paper selection!
I also think that changing the font from Haettenschweiler Condensed Frizzy Gothic Olde World to Times New Roman was an excellent choice. Far more readable and the page count went way down. I wonder if you might consider trimming your manuscript even further from its current 716 pages. I’m just thinking of marketing here. I’ve noticed that novels these days – as opposed to novels of the nineteenth century – seem to run a bit shorter; probably has something to do with Xbox and Facebook.
I have a few additional constructive comments that I feel may strengthen your work:
Your working title, All the President’s Beyotches: The Untold Story of Watergate, is intriguing and I know you’re very attached to it. Before you totally commit, I would suggest that you really hone in on who your audience is. I’m still struggling a bit with that. In your cover letter, you mentioned that you were targeting fans of historical fiction, fantasy, erotica, and fisherman. I wonder if you might be casting slightly too wide a net (no pun). Just food for thought.
While I understand that a work of historical fiction grants the author some license to alter the probable facts of history, the sex scene in the Watergate Hotel bridal suite between G. Gordon Liddy and Richard Nixon might be taking it a little too far. Rather than painting the details of their coupling as explicitly as you do, maybe you could just imply an encounter? I’m only concerned because if this book becomes a bestseller, you won’t want lawsuits to spoil your sales numbers.
I noticed a rather abrupt change in language starting about halfway through chapter eleven. I think you were writing this right around the time I sent you the link to Thesaurus.com. You may consider simplifying the language for your readers in this section. For example, on page 212, the second paragraph starts, “As they cavalcaded down the couloir, he vouchsafed him a prehistorical recountal swathed in a vellum encasement.” Maybe you just should say, “As they walked down the hall, he gave him the file.” A bit more direct. I attended a wonderful Donald Maass session one time and he said, “Sometimes less is more.” Sage advice. By the way, have you registered yet for the Writer Unboxed Unconference in Salem, MA in November? It’s going to be amazing.
In chapters 21 through 36, I see that you’ve repurposed much of the material from one of your previous unpublished works, Fly Fishing for Dummies. I’m just not sure if the non-fiction material from that work integrates well with the fiction material. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve artfully recast it (still no pun) from the point of view of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they fly cast for brookies on the north branches of the Potomac. You might be able to further fuse these sections by eliminating some, if not all, of the charts throughout these chapters – for example, the one titled Fly Line Weight Tolerances for Common Game Fish and also Tips for Anglers!
I think your main purpose here was to get Woodward and Bernstein deep in the wilderness where they find the portal of Ayylasyss that transports them to the Rock of the Sleeping Demongoat in the Forest of Agaloth, where they meet the Dwarves of the Seventh Ironage to commence the quest for the Deepthroat Oracle. I have no comments for those pages.
There were a few little things that I found confusing. For example on page 523, you used “Wilford Brimley” as a verb. I just wasn’t sure what you meant by: “The weight of the entire US intelligence community fell on his shoulders and Wilford Brimleyed him into a sweaty puddle of pathetic evaporating filth.” Maybe change to Mel Gibson?
Also, watch out for repeated words. Often times we writers unintentionally use the same word over and over again because it is active in our minds when we’re “in the zone.” I noticed a few words that frequently recurred in the manuscript. For example, you used the word “fuck,” and variations of it, 163 times in Chapter 52. I stopped counting after that.
All in all, you’ve made some great improvements from the previous draft and All the President’s Beyotches: The Untold Story of Watergate can only get better. As they say, 90% of good writing is rewriting. Don’t settle for just ‘good’, Dwight! Go for ‘great.’ Rewrite the whole damn thing!
I hope my comments have been helpful and not offensive in any way. If I have offended you, please let me know directly and do me a favor… don’t tell your sister. I’ve been sleeping on the couch since my last critique and she is considering allowing me back in the bed. Thanks, buddy. Please give Vickie my best.