Help! Niece wants feedback on her latest writing

LevNiece, I think she’s 12 or something, (how should I know, I don’t keep track) just sent me her life’s work. A story she wrote titled, The Forever Lasting Kiss. It was 250 pages! I dumped it into Word, made it Times New Roman 12 pt. and it’s still 110 pages, over 37K words!

I really can’t read it. It’s a teenager’s blow-by-blow train-of-consciousness emotional brain dump. I read the first couple pages and it’s all “well, like he said, and she said and I was like all” and then it ends with “He kissed me. This kiss was like nothing before. It lasted for like what it seemed to be hours and it was something I will never forget. This kiss was strong. This is my long lasting treasure. This kiss is something that will last forever. A forever lasting kiss.”

Now how am I, UncleLev, supposed to respond to this? She’s waiting for me to read the whole thing and give feedback. What am I supposed to say? How can I fake having actually read the whole thing? I certainly don’t want to hurt the poor kid’s feelings. Teachers, parents, help!

Forgive me for this but: You could do a search-replace ‘like’ for ‘’ (i.e. remove the word ‘like’ from the work) That might condense it a bit.

Joking aside. Unless someeone has a better suggestion: I think your only option is to read it. If she asks too soon just tell her you haven’t read it all yet. When you have read it be nice. Tell her only what’s good about it.

Since I am editing: You might be able to use diplomacy and tell her you don’t think anyone related to her should read personal/emotional stuff (in as diplomatic a way as you can)

But by all means wait for better advice-givers than me to reply. I felt like replying because I have an eleven year old niece, who’s been an emo[tional teen] since she was a toddler (probably since she stopped being the youngest). I wouldn’t put it past her to do something like this.

I was once asked to review something I couldn’t bring myself to read. It was some type of Samurai-vampire science fiction mystery. My response was that it was so different from the type of thing I usually read that I didn’t feel I could give it a meaningful review. I think the begging out b/c it seems too personal would be OK, also. I don’t have one to recommend, but since she’s interested in writing, maybe you could give her a book with creative writing exercises for a gift. You do want to encourage her. Even good writers start out bad sometimes/often.

She’s obviously poured her heart and soul into this. She’s a very bright, emotionally centered kid. Youngest of five or so. I think she values my opinion, and I’m impressed with the work she put into it. You can tell she’s read a lot and is trying to emulate real authors’ writing styles. There’s no way I’d have tapped out 37K words at that age. I do want to give what sounds like constructive criticism and encourage her to keep writing. Girl’s got lots to say.

Well, you could recruit 37 Dopers, send each of them 1,000 words…

I think one thing you can sincerely praise her for is producing that volume of writing. A 12-year-old churning out 37,000 words is pretty amazing. I can hardly get my 12-year-old to produce 500. (Yes, he’s a he!)

What does your niece intend to do with this magnum opus? This might be an opportunity to talk about voice and writing for a particular audience. If she tells you she’s writing for girlz her age, that might be a way for you to say, “Then I’m not the best person to read this and give you feedback.”

Maybe you can give her a bit of a challenge. Pascal, Twain, and Voltaire have all been quoted as writing, “This letter is long because I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” Being concise is hard work! Challenge her to condense her work by 50%. Give her a copy of Strunk & White. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, that’s a start, right there.

With a kid that age, they’re just as interested, if not more interested, in hearing that THEY are good and worthy, than they’re interested in hearing about the work itself. Encourage her to keep writing. Find a sentence or two that isn’t total shite and tell her why it works. Even in that fairly atrocious ending, I like the pacing. I like the selective and appropriate use of a sentence fragment as the final punch. Is it amateur writing? Of course! But that’s okay.

Set her up a writing challenge, if you’re willing. Ask her to write you a three page story without ever using the word “said.” This will do two things - get her thinking of other words for said, and challenge her to edit herself. For some of us (me included) writing short is much harder than writing long.
ETA: I hereby challenge myself to preview before I post! :smack:

You should definitely be supportive of her effort, and, if you can, find particular passages from the writing to specifically praise.

For obvious reasons, this thread reminds me of part of the plot in Studio Ghibli’s Whispers of the Heart. The main character in that movie creates a novel and asks her older friend (practically an uncle at this point) to read it and give her a critique. She was so sick with worry about what he would think that she went outside to the balcony and curled up the entire time he read it.

First of all, discuss it by email so you don’t get caught off-guard by a question about it that you can’t answer because you didn’t really read it. :slight_smile:
Then fall back on the classic diplomatic act of finding SOMETHING to praise about it. If I were you, I’d just tell her that you’re proud of her for working so hard on it, and other kinds of truthful praise that you can think of. That’s all she really wants (probably).

I’d say that the first thing you should consider is that the really good, useful, and worthwhile feedback is that which helps someone improve their writing. Not what you get from someone afraid to hurt their feelings.

Talk to her, first - ask her what she wants from the feedback. Don’t quite put it as, “Do you want polite lies, or do you want to get better?” But feel free to make the point that the useful feedback will be that which focuses on problems, and offers suggestions on how to improve them.

Once you know more accurately what she’s ready to accept you’re going to be better able to figure out how to tailor your feedback to her.

I’m not trying to say that you should go and tell her, “It’s shit.” That’s not going to be useful, nor would it be supportive nor loving. I agree with the other posters who have said that any 12 yo who can create a 37k document has one of the keys for success for writing: The ability to actually finish the project.

So, there’s some obvious room for you give some heartfelt praises, I’m sure.

But failing to point out flaws won’t help her. It’s trying to toe the balance between pointed the flaws without crushing her spirit that’s hard. And something that can only be done by you, I’m afraid.
ETA: I recently read somewhere from Eric Flint that it’s his opinion that for most people, before they can produce anything readable, they have to churn out some 500,000 words worth of dreck. She sounds like she’s well on her way to excising the dreck from her word processor. :smiley:

Maybe I could send you the document.

She’s my favorite. Okay, I admit it. I bonded to her when she was two and emotionally outclassed my brother’s spoiled four & six-year-olds, never mind her own siblings.

It’s rough with my going back to school myself, not having that much time and I’m going to have to read the damn thing and give some feedback.

I like the idea of sending her a couple writing books and challenging her to write me something a little less wordy.

Of course, I’ll praise her for constructing a story and churning out so many frickin’ words around it. I’d like to help her with that construction, but I’m not much of a writer myself.

This is the best advice I’ve seen so far. You can probably find a used copy for a dollar or two.