Tag Archives: feedback

the husband as critic

special k really pushed me to have a draft of my YA novel that he could read. He is now reading it, which is not the easiest thing for me, because he’s basically told me to bugger off and leave him alone to read it.

This means anxious bed-time hours, listening to him read, turn over, turn the pages, waiting for him to put it down and never pick it up again, wondering if I might get – not a laugh – but a little outward breath of amusement…

This morning he said, “Can I give you some feedback?” and everything in me froze up. “Er, I don’t think so?” I said, because nothing he said right then would have been useful.

Fastforward about an hour, and I was ready to hear it (I had reached the point, basically, where not knowing what he thought was wrong with it was going to be much worse than knowing).

He started talking, and I remembered how damn good at narrative he is.

The main feedback that is just spot on is: Every character is intense right from the beginning; everything is innuendo or insinuation; there is no definitive point to stand in the narrative.

This, in a way, is really positive feedback, because I want my characters to be ambiguous. BUT that doesn’t work at all unless you know the characters first – I never did the “naive young boy from the country” scenes that begin any fantasy. Act One, according to the people who know these things, should show a character in their normal, everyday life. This is the opening scene of any horror film, before anything falls apart.

Then there’s the specific feedback, like, “So the spaceship isn’t attached to the end of the kite’s string? Okay, but if she’s floating a remote control on the kite, how is she controlling the remote control?”

At this point the little brother chimes in, “And if she can fly the ship by remote control, why have a huge, complicated control room? She could just fly it while she’s watching TV…”

The road is long.

on feedback

I’ve been getting quite a lot of feedback lately – some confidence-destroying, some very encouraging, some useful, some not really to the point.

It all affects me.

Which has made me think and get all existential. See, this is where thinking led me: It’s all just someone’s opinion, informed by their experience and tastes. We all know that. There is no golden standard of good writing, against which our paltry offerings will never measure up.

But it’s also very clear that my writing is equally biassed – just a bunch of things I made up, informed by my experience and tastes. There is no truth within my writing, but what I decide.

So the real trick with feedback, it seems to me, is this:

Use feedback as objects in the vast, treacherous ocean that is novel writing. Land and rest at those that uphold you. Recharge and shove off revitalised from those that encourage you. Rethink your strategy on those that make useful critique of your game plan.

Rise up and recover from those that pull you under without warning.

Because the thing is: feedback is only useful as far as it gets you where you’re going. So use it like that.

It’s naive to ignore useful feedback just because it’s not what you want to hear. It’s tragic to give up because you think feedback is anything other than a tool on your journey.

Be courageous, open and generous in the face of it. Is the conclusion I came to.

For a brilliant essay on this topic – including a scientific experiment using rats and hidden islands – go here.

re-drafting

just sent Valerie Parv/fairygodmother the new draft of my first chapter and I am…nervous.

Redrafting and re-imagining something that you’ve already written is not easy. And it brings the risk factor in all over again. Some of the things I’ve had to deal with:

1. My hero is a charming rascal, but I had some feedback that made sense to me that he’s a little bit too farcical, i.e. he doesn’t allow room for an emotional journey. I’ve re-imagined him so that his charm is more obvious as a kind of defence mechanism/character flaw to hide his awful loneliness.

Given all the angsty alphas I’ve been reading lately I may have just – ever so slightly – overwritten him in the other direction.

2. Am I actually writing a completely different story? Have I lost everything that made that character what he was? This is really tricky, because he looks the same, is called the same, is being thrown into the same circumstance, but…

I imagine all writers face this when they work on manuscripts over long periods of time, because what you’re interested by changes over time, too.

3. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost contact with my “voice”. I feel like I’ve been improving so much as a writer and learning my craft/the industry. But I realised during this redrafting process that I was writing according to what makes a good scene and according to different feedback I was getting.

I took a deep breath and attempted to get back to what I love about romance novels and romantic heroes and write that. Save the rest for second-drafting. This makes it all the more terrifying to let someone else see it, because it feels raw.

Lucky for me, VP is the best mentor in the world, and I’m sure she will say whatever she has to say with great tact and encouragement, as always.

Will keep you posted.