Amazing and Terrifying – the theme for the week

Waiting for feedback is a weird kind of limbo. My story is out with people – SEVEN people in fact. Probably too many but I figure some of them won’t manage to read it. And some of them it just won’t be their kind of story. But some of them hopefully will try to see what it is meant to be and will give me thoughts and suggestions that will help it along in the direction of its truest and best self. Maybe three out of seven?

Anyway, since I sent it out I’ve been trying to get on with other things. Finding my way back into the fantasy novel I’m working on slowly slowly. Playing with a new story idea that came to me in a dream the night I emailed my MS off, which must have made the space for it. (Funny thing, I actually had a dream in which one of the folk from my writing group who now lives overseas appeared and told me the core element of the story I now want to write. Thanks Suz!!)

But it’s been hard getting anything much done, blog included, because I’m mostly just waiting.

Finally, last night, I got my first response, and this from a good friend who is a published author and whose advice and views I trust.

First of all, yay! How amazing it is to have someone really critically and carefully take the time to read your work and tell you what they think of it. How amazing, and terrifying, and vulnerable it feels to give somebody (or seven people) a manuscript that you know has problems and isn’t quite right. What an incredibly wonderful thing when they can point to this scene and that scene and this other scene and tell you why and how the scenes are failing.

I am very, very grateful.

As a writer I know I have blind spots. The process of receiving feedback confirmed that. There were things that I worried over endlessly that my reader never even mentioned. There were things that I hadn’t really thought about that she picked out, and once she did my gut agreed – yep something there is definitely not right, something there needs fixing.

And now the amazing and terrifying work of thinking through what it means. Cut this here and that shifts out of place. Add to that there and maybe it develops a limp. A draft is a strange thing, not yet settled, up for negotiation, malleable, able to shift and change. It’s a thing to be treated with care.

Reflecting on her feedback, I’m thinking about cutting a couple of characters, and shifting the weight of a couple of key scenes. It’s kind of a terrifying thought because for one thing it involves more work. Of course, there’s always more work to do. And I don’t really mind doing it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me sometimes because more work means more opportunities to fuck it up. Also, the changes involve relinquishing some degree of control as the writer. Because I think what will happen if I cut these things out is that it will give room for other characters and other elements of the story to breath and move and I don’t know quite what that will mean.

As well as making some really good calls on things that just don’t hang together, she also picked up a bunch of small pernickety things that I would never have thought of but that would probably really bug some people. For instance, a sleeping bag comes in a bag not a cover. Tents aren’t really made out of canvas anymore. Most seventeen year olds these days would use a GPS rather than ask for directions if they were lost and had a working mobile.

Also, she said the story was gripping and a great read and, the thing that I was happiest to hear, (especially coming as it did from the mother of teenagers) authentic. As someone who is now almost forty writing a novel from the point of view of a seventeen-year old, that was one of the things I worried most about – would her voice, her point of view, feel authentic?

I feel a huge sense of gratitude at receiving feedback. I got lots of ‘issues’ to deal with but I knew there were issues, so having someone send me a list feels like a great relief, a weight off my lonely shoulders.

Next, I’ll be interested to see how much the responses from other readers vary, whether they pick up on completely different things, whether any of their suggestions are contradictory. And at risk of getting WAY too excited I want to start working on the next draft, now, tonight!

What an amazing thing, to have a story to play with.  What a terrifying responsibility to have a story to tell.



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