Hi! It’s been such a long time since I have done this but I am so excited to be doing this because I do miss it! Dominique Gibson is back with another post. I know it’s been a long time since I have posted but I have been super busy with finishing up my last class for school (which is the writing seminar which gives me the opportunity to write a syllabus and lesson plans on expository writing, something in which I will share here before my class ends). Even though the class is for expository writing, it has helped me think about the future course I want to teach in the near future.
But that is another topic for another day.
Back in December, I had to really push myself in order to finish my thesis novel for the fourth book in The Truson S.E.T. Series because of a family emergency. I ended up having to turn it in a week later than I was supposed to due to this emergency so I pushed myself until the last minute so that I would be able to reach the 50,000 word minimum word count in order to pass the class (I passed with an A – Who-hoo!). I just recently got the feedback from my professor and I wanted to share it with you guys on what worked well and what didn’t. This will give me a good idea of what I need to work on in the next few drafts of A Phiman’s Betrayal.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your manuscript, “A Phiman’s Betrayal,” a character-driven speculative novel with elements of science fiction, romance, and suspense. What an adventure! I was immediately drawn into Evita’s story, and I genuinely enjoyed reading it. I haven’t read a book in this genre before, and I think you’re doing something really compelling with your hybrid Phiman characters. This manuscript reminded me of some of my favorite urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels, which often feature shapeshifters, and I love that you’ve employed elements from these genres to create something new that is all your own. The premise of the story is very inventive, and you’ve married it to interesting characters and strong world-building.
What’s Working Well
There is a lot going right in this draft, and I don’t think you need to engage in full-throated revision of this manuscript. Your use of craft and storytelling techniques shows great skill, and it is clear that a great deal of thought (and probably revision) has gone into this manuscript already. For me, certain aspects of this draft stand out as being particularly well done. These are some of the highlights:
Engaging opening—You did a great job grabbing the reader’s attention right away. We meet Evita as she loses a patient, and we learn about the virus in a rush of information that tells us that something is amiss in the world of the hybrids. You did a nice job in the first pages and chapters of introducing Evita’s world, the hybrids, the technology, and Truson S.E.T. In those opening pages, I felt Evita’s panic as her realization about the deadliness of the virus sets in, raising the stakes in the story. The brief opening descriptions from the operating room also do a nice job of setting up narrative dynamics, preparing the reader for a life-or-death struggle between opposing forces in an unfamiliar world.
Characterization—Evita is a well-developed protagonist. She is smart, beautiful, and caring; I liked her character and I rooted for her. In general, your characterization throughout the story is good. For me, one of the more compelling characters was Liam; his scenes are well-drawn and his dialogue and perspective are both very well done. Funny, too : ) The strength of Evita’s friendships also shines through, and they are a particularly bright spot in the narrative. The ensemble of characters (Evita, Liam, Jazu, and Amelia) makes sense, and we know enough about their driving forces and motivations for the most part.
Deeper Meaning—“A Phiman’s Betrayal” is a wonderful allegory for the complications presented by the sprint of technology. The fact that the virus is deadly to the super-evolved and genetically superior hybrids has echoes of the pandemic. As I was reading this story, I kept thinking about the way that COVID swept across the world, and how, for a while, there wasn’t much that could be done, despite having the best medical technology in the world. Scaffolding your story on this framework is very smart, because it creates a narrative that feels immediate and recognizable—people can relate to it. The premise of your story is excellent, and I think you’ll get a great response from agents and editors who are looking specifically for speculative romance with a gripping element of science fiction.
Worldbuilding—I really like the world that you’ve created, and especially that we get to see some of its origins. I enjoyed reading about the distinctive powers the different hybrids possessed, and the unique characteristics of each. I also thought it was interesting that Evita didn’t like hearing other Phiman’s thoughts, and she hated it that they could hear hers. This is a great twist for her character, and it is a telling detail. As I was reading, I found myself wanting to know more about the distinctions between the hybrids, because it’s something that’s very interesting. It’s definitely a good premise to work with when building a series! There is great attention to detail throughout the manuscript, lots of extra touches that are very creative and fun. I really liked learning more about the Truson Super Elite Team and the purpose they serve in the world you created. What a great idea! I also love all of the details that are peppered throughout the novel, and they go a long way towards grounding the reader in the world that you’ve created, making it feel real and tangible.
Central Relationship—Evita and Liam have great chemistry. They dynamic between these two characters is intense, and it’s a thrill to watch their relationship unfold. There are strong romantic elements between them, adding a wonderful love story to the science fiction, adventure, and suspense.
Genre—My concern about genre is mainly related to marketing. To me, this story blends multiple genres (which may not be a problem). As I was reading this manuscript, I kept thinking about how it would be marketed, and I’m still not sure. It’s a strong contender for paranormal romance—it fits the conventions of the genre pretty well. It might also be speculative suspense, or even traditional science fiction, though I don’t think that would be the best fit. If you are going to pursue traditional publishing for this story, clearly define the genre for agents, editors, and publishers.
Exposition—There’s just a bit too much of it in the early chapters of the story. There are long paragraphs and chunks of dialogue that exist only to fill in the blanks for the reader. While exposition is necessary to get the reader up to speed, it needs to be integrated into the narrative in an elegant and unassuming way. When you are revising, take care to break up longer passages of exposition (ones that take longer than a paragraph or two) with action or dialogue so you don’t lose the reader’s attention. Otherwise, this story has very good pacing and momentum.
Final Proofread for Grammar—Once you’ve made your content revisions, do a final sweep for grammatical and mechanical errors. There are occasional issues with spelling, tense, abrupt shifts in point of view, and word choice. When you submit the manuscript to agents or editors (or publish it on your own), you’ll want it to be pristine. One or two more passes through the manuscript should do it : )
Excellent job on your MFA thesis—well done!