Comments Cormac McCarthy Would Have Received If He Would Have Workshopped The Road

(Assuming he submitted it as an unpublished writer of course.)

  • How did the planet get like this? How long have they been walking? How old is the boy? How old is the man? Where are they exactly? Why is it always cold? How did they survive whatever happened? What are the bloodcults? (*They* sound interesting — you should write your story about them instead!) Who are these roving gangs? We need more back-story, otherwise this is way too confusing. You should try using more exposition if you don’t want to confuse people. No editor would ever buy a novel that confuses people like this one does.
  • Sometimes you wrote paragraphs about stuff that didn’t seem relevant to what was going on — you should get rid of those or else explain what they mean.
  • Once in a while you wrote some long run-on sentences that were really distracting. You should try breaking them up into smaller sentences.
  • I don’t even know the characters’ names!
  • Or what they look like!
  • I don’t like stories where the action all happens in dialog.
  • Your writing requires a lot of trust from the reader. You need to give stronger indications early on that let me know I can trust you.
  • The lack of punctuation and irregular capitalization was totally gimmicky. You should just use normal punctuation.
  • There wasn’t enough of a setting here. I never felt like I could see what was going on.
  • This world feels trite. I feel like I’ve read this before — a bunch of times.
  • The pace was too slow — you should pick it up by adding event.
  • My main concern was a lack of forward movement in the story. It was like it was a series of loosely connected vignettes.
  • I stopped at the part where you implied that the dog was killed because people shouldn’t mistreat animals. (I was okay with the cannibalism, just not when they killed the dog.)
  • Sometimes the dialog was confusing. If you added dialog tags, I’d know who was speaking; you should do that.
  • Some of the dialog was repetitive! I got really tired of having the kid say “okay”. You should change it up a little. Kids have bigger vocabularies than that!
  • I got tired of reading about those two characters. You need more characters to keep it interesting.
  • I’m not sure this is realistic enough. If the guy is sick or injured or starving, I don’t think he could possibly do all the things he did. You should do more research.
  • There are a lot of convenient plot points in the story, like every time they really need something, they *just happen* to find it. They need to earn everything.
  • This story is too cold and bleak and there’s not enough reason to hope. I don’t like that.
  • The POV shift was thoroughly annoying.
  • The tension in the story was great, but when they finally reached their objective, I wasn’t sure what was still on the table — only that there were still 50 or 60 pages left. I need something that gives me a stronger indication of what I’m still reading for and what the characters are trying to achieve; the ultimate aim that’s achieved seems oddly missing throughout most of the book. (<– This would’ve been my comment.)

I love the fact that this book exists, got published, got reviewed glowingly, and got read widely. Gives me hope for the future. A little bit.



  • bkdunn


    Sorry, just found this about Cormac McCarthy’s comments on Oprah. How does this guy end up on Oprah? Freakin’ brilliant, especially his last comment in the article:

    Read It Here

  • Chris Bigelow

    On your last bullet point, it worked for me because the objective was just giving them SOMETHING to work toward, even though it wasn’t really much of an objective in the end. This seemed realistic to me, sort of reflecting the semi-false hope that kept the guy going.

    I really loved the Road and ordered a bunch more McCormac for myself for Xmas. He leaves a lot of unanswered questions but I think they are interesting to ponder, not off-putting. I also liked the recent “No Country for Old Men” movie and will probably read that book soon.

    But I don’t like leaving the apostrophes off contractions like “dont.”

  • bkdunn

    Hope I didn’t give the wrong impression — I liked The Road a *lot*. Things just seemed to go slack once they reached The Objective (felt the same thing in watching No Country, btw, once the main external conflict was resolved and there were still 30 minutes left).

    I ordered Blood Meridian, should be here Wednesday.

  • bkdunn

    Agreed. I’m in a workshop-class right now — similar issues seem to exist, but on the whole it forces me to keep writing and the people in it are interesting so it’s a very net-positive.


  • telkontar

    The book was 3 times longer than it needed to be.

    The story was about a relationship and what the Padre would do for the boy. I found the conclusiong to be fairly trite — that life will go on after the father dies.

    Based on the movie trailers, I filled in the backstory like a Hollywood director. (That can’t be good, can it?)

    The Road is a metaphor — you only thought the sea was the objective, but you were wrong.