Giving Feedback on Someone's Writing

A friend of mine reached out to me recently because he's working on writing a book. I'm guessing we'll get together and discuss it more in the future, but I highly encouraged him to do the work of writing, because you can spend your entire life studying something and never get around to the doing. I know that from personal experience. (And, I did send him a big list of videos and books to check out, probably too many.)


This is a writing exercise he did with my comments included.

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I will offset my comments like this.

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So since I think I should just start writing, I used a writing prompt to create a very short passage . This is the first time I’ve just written off the top of my head . Lemme know if it’s decent, like if there’s room to grow, anything . Thanks.

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The important part about writing is that your style is going to naturally change over time, so you want to get past the early and fast changes as quickly as possible. There is always revision of course, Patrick Rothfuss has done hundreds of rewrites on his books. But, it did take 14 years of work before "The Name of the Wind" came out.

I did a writing exercise about 2 years ago that changed my writing style quite a bit. It's in these articles.
http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/search?q=imitating

I plan on doing another way that may be significant soon based on the advice of Benjamin Franklin. We'll see how that goes.

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Writing prompt: unstable man being broke up with from girlfriend

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There is some emotional depth to that prompt.

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Owen’s vision began to change. The typical colors he had come to recognize as normal, the smooth brown of the hardwood floors, the many greens of the endless house plants that filled their home, began to flicker hues of red and black. Everything around him started to vibrate, pulses changing familiar shapes into images he couldn’t quite make out, vague shapes of a world that had always seemed to pummel him into ground. A world he hated. He knew this was coming. For three weeks now, he had watched the changes in Brit, each day reinforcing his belief that the end was near. Why was he here again? What had he done wrong? It seemed anytime he began to have real feelings for a woman, she would turn him away. He had given her everything. Every piece of his soul was dedicated to her. And yet, it wasn’t enough.

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Nicely done. I like the style. The in media res start of psychological action. Perception mixed with contemplation. I think you would probably like the start of "Replay" by Ken Grimwood.

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“I just can’t see us being compatible long term,” she had said. Those words, with that demeanor she exhumed screamed “I don’t give a fuck about you” to him. He was confused. He was angered. He was dangerous.

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I like the introduction of dialogue as an act of remembrance here. The second sentence seems slightly clunky in the middle, very minor. Nice repetition of He was at the end.
Those words, with that demeanor of hers, screamed "I don't give a fuck about you!" at him.

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“You’re not making any sense!” Owen said, in a tone that was quickly becoming more aggressive than he had hoped. “Why won’t we work together? I do everything for you! Every time you ask me to do something, I do it without question! I love you Brit! Please don’t do this!”

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The switch to the present tense went pretty well.

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Brit sighed, a long uncaring exclamation that made Owen feel even worse. “You want the truth?”, she said. “Yes!”, Owen cried, his tone and resolve broken so much that it was hard for him to even not notice. “The truth is, you’re just too attached to me. I know you’ve never been in a serious relationship, and I get that you might feel extra protective because you don’t want to lose me, but Owen, you don’t give me any room to breath! You’re constantly on my side, every where we go following me around like a scared puppy! I’m sick of it! It’s so fucking unattractive!”

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It's good. There are three levels of editing. Copywriting is fixing stuff like punctuation and spelling and such. Line editing is what I've done, that's where you make sure the lines are communicating as well as they can. Developmental editing is where you think about the plot, adding and deleting scenes or characters, and that sort of thing. For copyediting, I would cut the commas after those first two pieces of dialogue. For line editing, Brit sighed, the long uncaring sound of exasperation in her unspoken words, a sound that made Owen feel even worse. I would also change sentence three, but I'll skip the example on that one. For developmental editing, I basically have nothing so far.

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“Oh excuse me for trying to be near you! What am I supposed to do? You have random guys follow you around all night every time we go out! It’s embarrassing for me!”

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It feels like too much of a change in Owen here, but a little more description of his internal state, or his appearance indicating a change in internal state, might be able to bridge that gap.

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“YOU’RE EMBARRASSING FOR ME, OWEN!!”, Brit screamed in retaliation. Owen flushed, his cheeks and neck quickly becoming the tint of someone in the sun too long. “Why can’t you just act like a normal guy, like Paul or something?!”
“Like Paul?” Owen whispered in a hushed tone. “You mean the guy I’ve been asking about for months? You mean the guy that you swore was just a friend? That Paul?!”

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Ooooh.

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She had gone too far. She knew this was a trigger for him, and she did it regardless?
“It’s not like that, Owen”, Brit cried. “You know he’s just a friend”. Owen didn’t hear a word she said, his anger rising to uncontrollable heights. “The fuck head who I’ve been stressing over for weeks? That Paul?! You fucking piece of shit whore! I knew there was shit going on!” “It’s not like th....”

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The question mark is weird after sentence two. I can feel the instability now.

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Something in Owen snapped. He grabbed Brit by the neck, not really understanding what he was doing. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t stop himself. It was almost as if he was watching himself act out a scene he had fantasized for months.

All he could do was hate. He squeezed harder and harder as he thought about all the moments that she had made him feel worthless. Now she would understand him. One way or another. She would know how he felt.

He pressed his face against hers. Using the remainder of his strength to close down hard on her neck. Owen saw the light begin to drain from her eyes, and despite a sudden moment of fear and regret, he watched her die.

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An intense and fast end. It feels a little abrupt and flat compared with the style in the beginning where you're more descriptive. It might make sense to continue that here and go over some of the things that are flashing through his head. Or, to move into more of an objective third person point of view and be more detached from the internal states, but more descriptive of the environment.

Overall, super good man.

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And that's it. The end. Obviously my stuff could use some editing here as well. For instance, I said copywriting at one point when I meant copyediting.

I think this type of thing is useful for people, I hope so. Art is a difficult thing to both give feedback on, and to receive it, for multiple reasons. But, potentially still useful.

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Read more of what Jeff deems worthy of attention at: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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