A Quick Look at a First Novel by Mathew R. J. Parkes

It’s not a good idea to ask an editor to look at your work unless you are ready for an honest opinion that you might not like. Today, I received a request on Twitter from British debut novelist Mathew R. J. Parkes [ @ShriekSN ] asking me to take a look at his first full-length novel on WattPad. I don’t usually “take looks” because I rarely like what I see, and I just don’t have time in my day to give personal advice. But this young writer has a good grasp of how to put a sentence together, which is fairly rare today. I believe he has promise and a successful writing career ahead if he invests the time and effort to progress from a good writer to a great writer.

His first novel, None So Dead, is worth a read on Wattpad, and my quick review of the first few pages is provided below. Here’s a link to Mathew’s work in progress: https://www.wattpad.com/442584899-none-so-dead-chapter-1

The writer does mention that this story is a first draft; but whenever we publish a work on Wattpad or elsewhere, it may be the only chance we get to make a favorable impression on readers, so it should be typo-free and as close to final draft as possible. This particular story is interesting and well written, but in the opening passages, we find:

He’ walked forwards into the silence. turning into a narrow street he saw a white sign with black lettering bolded to the side of the brick building that identified the street as “Pickers lane”.

There’s no need for an apostrophe after “He”; “turning” starts a sentence and should be capitalized, as should “Lane” in the street name, which is a proper noun. As for “bolded,” the sign lettering might be bold, but I’m pretty sure the writer meant the sign is bolted to the wall.

It’s good that I find small things to nitpick rather having issues with major components of the story. Beyond fixing the trivial typos, I would like to see the writer aim for more show and less tell. That last sentence, for instance, is wordy. Detail is good, but it needs to be broken up, by recasting or with punctuation, to avoid stacking so many details that a passage becomes awkward to read. An alternate way to write that last sentence might be:

Turning into a narrow street, he saw a white sign bolted to the side of a brick building; the black lettering identified the street as Pickers Lane.

With attention to such minor issues throughout the novel, this writer will have a well-written and interesting story that he can be proud to share and publish. Keep up the good work, Mathew, and the best of luck with your writing career!

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