What?? Monday got past me without posting on my site??? I think somebody spun the clock ahead (and not just for daylight savings time) when I wasn’t looking. How did I lose a whole day?
To be honest, things are going to be cranking in my life for the next month or so. After I got back from Guatemala, I started reading the Wheel of Time series. About the time I was half-way through book 3 (of 14, but who’s counting?), I signed up for a flash fiction class that runs through mid-April, and agreed to teach one night in late April for a Rabbi friend. At the same time, I got all the comments back from critique partners on The Founder’s Seed. Guess who’s scrambling to get everything done on a schedule now?
I have to admit, though, that I read through all the TFS comments before preparing for my other obligations. I know it wasn’t the most responsible decision, but I couldn’t help myself.
As always, there were a number of story points about which different readers had diametrically opposed opinions. One might say “I love this character’s depth!” even though another says “This (same) character is flat, undeveloped.” Several people suggested I change my first scene (which admittedly reveals a great deal of setup) from being in one character’s head to show it in dialogue between two or more characters; another reader thought an opening scene with just the main character was ideal. One reader hated the whole thing, couldn’t get into it at all. Others enjoyed it, some even “loved” it. One made me promise not to make him wait years for the sequel. (That felt good.)
Every reader is different. In my experience, it’s common to find that one person just doesn’t get (or misses) a plot point or reason for a particular detail. That’s not necessarily a problem. If three out of five readers don’t get it, or misunderstand a plot point, then I look more closely at where the confusion can be clarified.
Some comments are so obvious I feel a need to smack my forehead (#headdesk) and say “How did I miss that?” Others can occasionally be less clear. I have to think about them before I know how—or whether—I want to fix them. All of them make me take a hard look at what I wrote, think about how I portrayed it, and be certain that every detail in the story deserves to be there, and that’s really the point. Still, while I appreciate every single critique reader, sometimes the changes they suggest don’t resonate with where I want to take the story. Writers, you know what I mean.
On occasion, when I’m not sure whether the suggestion is a good one, I’ve been known get a second or third opinion. Last weekend I sat down with the Bobinator and a writer friend, John. Together, the three of us went through one of the markup copies to discuss which changes made sense to them as readers, and which did not. We spread out in our complex’s brand-new clubhouse at the conference table and spent several hours poring over the draft. After a break for dinner (thanks to Bobinator, the Pasta King), we were back at it until we finished that one markup. It was so helpful! I was able to make informed decisions about most of the changes, even if there are still a few I agree need clarification, but I’m not sure how to do so. Stay tuned for that.
So I may not be able to post every week for a couple of months. I have been working on this manuscript so long, I want to be done with it. Anyone who’s written a novel will know that feeling. But it’s more than that. I want it to be the best it can be. I want to traditionally publish. And I want to see it in the hands of readers because they want to read it, not because they’re critiquing it. I’d like to hope this will be “the last” draft, but I know that’s a lost cause. Even if I land a publisher after these revisions, it’ll go through several more rounds of edits before it comes out on the shelves. That’s part of the deal, and I accept it.
Keep your fingers crossed for me. Once I finish these edits, I’ll get one or two more readers, then I’m querying. I’ll need all the good ju-ju you can send.
Red Pen photo courtesy of pxhere.