The [Working Title] by [Author]

Introduction/Overall Assessment

[Author], I’m going to handle this evaluation in a way that’s kind of “bass-ackward” from my usual approach. I think it’ll be best to hit you straight off with what it’d probably take to turn what you’ve written into a workable novel or some other form(s) of writing. But first, let me commend you for tackling a formidable undertaking. Only someone who’s tried it can know how difficult a task it is to create a detailed and colossal, 140,000+-piece literary superstructure.

Takes courage, determination, persistence and more than a little sheer gall. You took on that challenge with ambitious spirit, but I fear certain flawed storytelling skills, some of which may not be remediable given the schema you’re currently attempting, mar your efforts.

In fact, I foresee a major overhaul and/or reconception is needed, and for this reason I’m not going to get into fine detail with this evaluation. Instead, what follow will be mostly “big picture” observations and overview suggestions; I’ll shortly try to flesh and reason at least some of these out, in terms of different individual facets of fictional tools an effective novelist needs to employ:

1. Perhaps most importantly, if you want what you’ve written to end up being an effective and compelling novel, you’ll need to overhaul it to feature a new and more dominant protagonist, who pursues negative, rather than positive challenges the one I suggest below may surprise you.

2. You’ll need to simplify character and setting descriptions, so your plot movement doesn’t bog down when you try to introduce readers to new characters or take them to new places or just shift scenes.

3. You’ll have to create chapter headings, if not also chapter titles, so you give readers much-needed “white” and breathing space and also create suspense as you pass through settings and events and move into different ones.

4. You’ll need to deal with serious point-of-view and dialogue issues that interfere with your continuity and plot movement

5. If you hope to tell your story to “lay,” non-scientist, non-mathematician readers, you’ll have to excise your numerous pages of scientific jargon and substitute for these sections brief-yet-accurate summaries of their import, else you’ll lose all but an elite cadre of readers in your first morasses of technical minutiae. This kind of stuff presumes far too much knowledge on the part of even most better-educated readers, and it’s far more important that readers know their significance than that you force them to slog through these sections.

6. You’re going to have to imbue some characters with more deeply conceived background to make more credible their abilities to exercise their functions in the overall plot.

7. You’re going to have to sift out from the narrative considerable amounts of “alphabet soup”; your conglomerate of agency functionaries, acronyms and other jargon (including use of terms inadequately defined or not defined at all) gets dizzying and oppressive pretty quickly and would lose most “lay” readers early on.

8. You’ll need to decide, if you keep this work a novel, which of your cornucopia of characters are really necessary to advance your basic plot. Too many just seem to pop in, do some hyper-minor action(s), then vanish and later re-appear in some other minuscule action, and you expect readers to somehow remember them. Juggling minor characters in and out this way, you’ll lose all but readers with photographic memories, I’m afraid.

9. While your engagement of certain philosophical controversies has intrinsic interest, it’s repeated several times in pretty much the same terms and seems to have but tenuous relevance to your central issues. This, together with other arcane scientific/mathematical quagmiring and asiding gives weighty sections of the book far more “lecture” than fiction feel, sapping suspense and intrigue from the story, distracting from the book’s central conflict and probably belonging in a whole other sort of book focusing on other themes.

10. You’ll need to expand the number of observers of certain key phenomena well beyond those few you depict now if you hope to make the novel’s plot-crucial thesis appear more widely persuasive in the scientific community. After all, as you know, replicability of scientific experiments, data and/or observation is key to general acceptance of any scientific theory or law. So if your main character has the means to “buy” one eminent scientist, why shouldn’t he be able to buy enough others to make the case more widely faux-observed and therefore more compelling to the world at large? That readers should expect the major notions on which your plot hinges to be so widely embraced based so heavily on but one researcher’s work would seem to me to generate a cavernous credibility gap into which the fall of so many powerful people worldwide beggars belief.

11. Your narrative contains much conversation that’s not germane to the novel’s most salient issues, doesn’t effectively advance the plot and doesn’t add to mystery or suspense.

12. Because of much of the above, the sense of mystery you seem to be trying to create gets lost in murky continuity, highly uneven pacing and fragmentary characterization. The story lumbers along on so much non-functional machinery, it all soon gets sort of Rube Goldberg-ish. It strikes me that you might be better off abandoning any attempt to create that sense of mystery and the unknown and instead take a whole other major plot tack I’ll suggest shortly.

13. Your speculation (probably because of your manuscript’s length) that your narrative should be divided into two books lacks feasibility, I think. Reason: Because when novels are written in series, all books making up the series have to satisfactorily resolve individual plots so they stand on their own, however many books in the series a single reader might pick up. You never know whether a reader might start with your second book, or even your third, etc., and perhaps never read another in the series. So you have to create plots that wrap themselves up singly, even while they also contribute to development and final resolution of an over-arching plot that ties up all the plots that precede the final book in the series. I simply don’t think your story’s workable in those terms.

14. If this extensive an overhaul seems too formidable, you might seriously consider taking your subject matter and turning your thoughts into essay collection material, about scientific, mathematical, biological, metaphysical and ethical issues of interest. I’ll e-mail you an evaluation in which I suggested just a move for a certain Ph.D. I worked with who tried to write a novel that turned out not to be one, really. He followed my advice and after failing to interest an agent in his “novelized” manuscript, landed one to champion his “raconteuring essays.”

Now let me try to break some of this down, as pertains to narrative-storytelling components.


Part 2: Characters

Part 3: Points of View

Part 4: Dialogue

Part 5: Action, Settings and Descriptions, Pacing

Part 6: Plot Movement / Resolution, Audience Appeal, Moving Forward

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