Algonkian Writer Conferences Review
"Serious Fixes for the Typical Writer Group"

by Michael Neff

Below we establish and review a few categories and listed criteria for engaging in the intelligent critique of novel-length fiction. This will help guide your writer's group (if such a thing is possible) and cause the critique to be more focused and less arbitrary.

Premise and Plot
  • Does the premise or story concept sound high concept? Original? If so, why? Defend your conclusion. What makes it unique when compared to published novels or nonfiction in the genre? You must effectively argue this case for or against. If against, present examples why it might not be sufficiently original to capture the interest of an agent or publisher.

  • Are you able to discern the primary source of dramatic tension and complication that creates the major plot line(s)? Can you or the writer create a conflict statement for the novel that demonstrates, for example:

  • The Hand of Fatima

    A young Moor torn between Islam and Christianity, scorned and tormented by both, struggles to bridge the two faiths by seeking common ground in the very nature of God.

    Summer's Sisters

    After sharing a magical summer with a friend, a young woman must confront her friend's betrayal of her with the man she loved.

    The Bartimaeus Trilogy

    As an apprentice mage seeks revenge on an elder magician who humiliated him, he unleashes a powerful Djinni who joins the mage to confront a danger that threatens their entire world.

Part II

Narrative, Scenes and Style
How does the story read? Each one of the following bullet points must be addressed.

 Part II


The main thing here is to focus on the manner in which the characters reveal themselves, e.g., the antagonist, in the course of the narrative, via dialogue and action.

Michael Neff
Algonkian Writer Conferences