FIRST PLACE: GUILTY KNOWLEDGE by Nicole Engelbrecht
SECOND PLACE HEARTBLOOD by Wendy Greeff
THIRD PLACE: THE PROMISED BRIDGE by Frank Gadd
COMMENDED: WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD by Nikky Olivier
SHERRY MUST FALL by Terry White
A M Smith, Cape Town, 15 March 2019
Congratulations to the Writers who made the effort to enter the competition. I was hoping for local stories; stories that showed originality, a well-constructed plot and, of course, good fluent writing .
I was delighted to read three local SA stories and you will note how successfully they have been placed. Congratulations to the Winners, and encouragement to the unplaced writers. I hope you will finish your novels, and get them published.
I get the distinct feeling your writers are not reading current novels, or else they would be more on trend in the horror/romance/crime genres. World famous successful novelists repeat the same mantra over & over: READ AS MUCH AND AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN.
“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” William Faulkner . Quoted this month by Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf’.
And they repeat that other old chestnut: SHOW, don’t TELL. Some of your writers need to repeat this ten times nightly, before going to sleep!
I strongly recommend all entrants read the Observer article Meet the hottest-tipped debut novelists of 201 (https://www.theguardian.com/books/201/jan/13/debut-novelists-of-201-interviews-bev-thomas? ) to see how debut novelists are succeeding, the type of themes they tackle and the genres publishers are looking for.
This year I have included a question at the end of each personal review: Am I encouraged to read the rest of it? I have answered the question completely truthfully, and my honesty is intended to encourage you to view your writing with a very clear eye. Should you be wounded by my comments, then I would advise you to toughen up as a writer. Friends and family will tell you what you want to hear, but an impartial judge will tell it as she/he sees it.
SPECIFIC COMMENTS & QUESTIONS
- Focus on the story-telling: do you have a good story to tell us?
- Titles are crucial!
- Don’t try too hard with fancy or foreign names. Be careful of choosing names with unfortunate or unintended associations . I found too many alliterative names.
- Fact check that famous people used as examples are appropriate to your storyline and tone.
- Foreign slang: check with a native speaker before including; or research on online/ TV & movies .
- Most of the writers avoided physical descriptions of their characters like the plague – why? did your Group host a visiting Speaker who issued a blanket ukase on all adjectives and adverbs?
- Where are the light touches? The humour?
- I am delighted to note this year all stories provided a Synopsis and – with one exception – stuck to the word count.
- In arriving at my decision I considered the following five categories:
Writing quality, Originality, Character development, Plot development, Overall enjoyment (from the reader’s perspective).
I have written a commentary for each entry. My remarks are intended as constructive criticism. Please read them in this spirit!
- Please note: I read the chapter first, and the Synopsis second. This helped me to clarify genre and plot. Also whether your chapter was heading in the general direction of the proposed finale.