I was lucky enough to be online and perusing the “writing” tag when Dominique Rose popped up offering free assessments and mentoring to the first five writers to claim them on her blog. I shot off a quick email and was very excited to be one of the lucky five to recieve a 20,000 word assessment report for my science-fiction novel, Sector 12. The report I got back included very helpful comments throughout my manuscript in regards to structure, writing style, plot, pace, characters, dialogue, AND also included a one page summary of recommendations. I was really happy with my assessment and am looking forward to implementing the changes Dominique suggested.
Since I cover a lot of writing topics on this blog, I decided this would be an excellent opportunity to pick Dominuque’s brain in regards to her literary services and how they can help writers hone their own manuscripts.
She was nice enough to answer the following questions for me:
Tell us a little about yourself, how and why did you start Dominique Rose Literary Services?
My name is Dominique (shock) and I live in Sydney, Australia with my husband, son and an Old English Sheepdog with a penchant for bizarre and expensive illnesses. I grew up in a family bursting with authors and screenwriters, where an extra pair of eyes was always put use reading through the latest project. My dad was a university professor and I recall helping him mark essays and doodling wonky unicorns in the margins.
I started my business when I realised that what I had been doing for friends and strangers for years was an actual thing. Like, a job. With real money.
I had never heard of manuscript appraisal services before and, to be honest, I’m still not entirely comfortable with the term. Many appraisers are just anonymous voices and I’d like to think that what I do is a bit less clinical than that. I like to keep in touch with the authors I work with and I often become good friends with those that I mentor. It is hard to share as personal an experience as writing, and being given that level of trust gives me the warm fuzzies every time.
What genre do you enjoy reading the most?
Sci-fi and fantasy will always be my go-to books, I love to immerse myself in a unique and unpredictable world. But if I’m knee deep in manuscripts, a guilty pleasure to visit second hand stores and pick up some really B-grade horror novels. I guess the best way to turn off the analytical part of my brain is to overwhelm it with cliches and plot holes until it fizzles.
How would you handle sensitive writers who question every comment you make?
Luckily, I haven’t had too many negative responses so far. I think most writers are at least subconsciously aware that there are areas that need improvement, or else they wouldn’t have come to me in the first place. Having said that, I still try to be as gentle as I can be without sacrificing honesty. I also like to give writers different ways to approach their problem areas so they’re not left in the dark thinking their work is unsalvageable.
But as always, what I say is just one reader’s opinion and they are free to disagree with it. I’m happy to talk it over and try to answer any questions or confusions they might have if that will make them feel better. Just so long as they don’t shout – I’m sensitive too!
Are there any common mistakes you’ve found that everyone seems to make in their manuscripts?
Dialogue wins that prize, hands down. It seems people are either fantastic at it or downright miserable. If you are writing a piece of dialogue, please read it out loud!
When it comes to longer speeches or conversations, I like to advise writers to read it through, close their computer, turn on a voice recorder and say it all from memory. Nine times out of ten your mouth is better at coming up with natural sounding dialogue than your brain is.
The runners up in the common mistakes category are; telling instead of showing, not trusting the reader’s intelligence and adding in background information that only the writer finds interesting.
What advice would you have for writers wanting to write a novel?
Write it! Don’t just think about writing it, commit yourself to a set number of words each day and stick to it. Treat yourself like a 5th grader, create a pie graph of your word count goal and colour in a little segment each time you write a thousand words. When you reach 20,000 words, have a lollipop.
Once you have written it, enlist, entreaty, and blackmail every friend, relative, coworker and pet into reading your work and giving you honest feedback. Ask for the feedback in writing, this gives you something to refer back to, but it also gives you a chance to process the feedback before reacting to it. The last thing you want is to burst into tears when Aunty Glady tells you she didn’t get your ingenious plot twist.