Friday, March 19, 2010

Feedback at last

When my WIP became a first draft in December 2009, it was a tangled mess of internal inconsistencies, not unlike the basket in which I dump my necklaces. I spent much of February trying to iron out the inconsistencies and bring sense into the order in which the chapters appear. Unfortunately, February was also the month in which I read three really awesome books, and my manuscript looked pathetic in comparison.

I was convinced that I would be doing myself and the world a favour by deleting the entire WIP folder, but three wonderfully supportive people (thank you Tami, Fiona and Marian) convinced me that I should give it to my first readers to get a different perspective. That made sense, and in the last week of February, I sent the manuscript to three people who had volunteered to read it, and to one who hadn't- the only question I wanted answered was whether I should trash the whole project, or invest time into knocking it into shape. A week later, I sent it to two schoolmates, because I realised they would perhaps have a better sense of what would work in the Indian scenario.

Then Silence! I knew that everyone had a life to lead. There were chapters to write, a wedding to prepare for, young kids to mind, and day jobs. It was unrealistic to expect any feedback so soon. But, despite knowing that, the silence was eerie. Did everyone hate it so much they did not want to tell me anything, even though I had specifically asked them to tell me just that? It was scary. I felt the same sick worry that a Mother in the pre-mobile phone days must have felt on the first day that her child used public transportation to get to school and back - I knew I should not be building scenarios just yet, but how else to occupy the time?

And then I heard back from my schoolmate. She said she liked the story and my style of writing. She said I seemed to understand the minds of my characters. Then, huge pause........ 'it is a wonderful story if you are writing for your friends", she said. "But you need to revise extensively before it can be ready for publication." For the next ten minutes she listed out where the pace needed to be tightened, and where the motivations of the characters didn't seem plausible enough. She asked me to add more action within the workplace, and told me to tone down a few scenes. The feedback was invaluable, because it came from someone who could analyse story structure much better that I could ever hope to. But more than anything else, her feedback made me believe that the story was worth expending more energy on.

Hard work never scared me- it is not going to start scaring me now- but it is nice to know there is a purpose to the hard work.

Revision days ahead. Should be fun!!!

And now, one of my characters has decided she wants to start smoking. What does one do with these pesky, whimsical characters?


Ann Elle Altman said...

I would love to read the book! I belong to a critique group. What group do you belong with?


Anonymous said...

Hurray for such useful feedback - so constructive!

Al said...

Feedback like this is fantastic.

I don't know what you do with such mischievous characters.
Is it the kind of story where you can bump them off if the misbehave?

Jan Morrison said... good to hear and to hear something helpful.
And as for your michievious characters - well, mine never behave so I have no advice except buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Ann - a bunch of us (all fan-fic writers who met on a Harry Potter site) started an informal group called the Burrow three years back. Between us, we have about six finished and unpublished stories, of which four are owned by one person !

@ Fiona - quite!

@ Al - no such luck. Considering I need her to go into labour in the Epilogue, I guess I have to put up with her whims and fancies :-(

@ Jan - and take the opportunity to harangue her a bit.

dipali said...

There's a point beyond which the characters take on their own lives, leaving you wringing your hands at their shenanigans! Waiting eagerly for the next update on The Book!

Mason Canyon said...

Sounds like you are on a good track now. Sometimes the characters will take on a life of their own. Maybe somewhere along the way the character will realize how bad smoking is and make a point of quitting. Who knows. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

was just wondering if you told your character 'no, you naughty girl, you may not smoke - this is the New Millennium!' would she do it anyway?


as one of your readers, I apologize for the awesomeness of the silence - know how it feels - but it was necessary to get it all in my head before commenting - you had the joy of living with your personae for months - the reader gets it all at once!

anyway, let the world know: SHE'S BRILLIANT AT WHAT SHE DOES!!!

Enchanted Oak said...

The discernment and ability to analyze the parts within the whole are great treasures to find in a reader. You have been blessed! I identify with your joy over being given honest, worthwhile direction.

Watery Tart said...

Isn't that waiting AGONIZING? It's nice to have a speedreader friend or two (Leanne is great that way).

The excellent feedback though is SO helpful! And I swear next draft I shouldn't be on such a tight schedule!

(and I may have written 4, but 3 of those still need extensive work--only one done)

Faith Pray said...

It's so exciting to have a project you believe in, and so frightening to trust others with it. So, first of all, great job putting it out there! Secondly, it sounds like she had really good feedback. Have you heard back from anyone else, though, because you might want to hear from your other proof-ers to see if their ideas are similar or different. This could save you a little bit of time in the long run. Great for you!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Dipali - you have the summary today :-) Turned off the internet and worked on that all weekend, and found your comment only after posting the summary.

@ Mason - yes, it is fantastic to receive feedback at last. All this while I was actually wondering if it was so bad that people were too scared to even tell me about it.

@ Marian - if I tell Malathi she shouldn't smoke, she will feel even more guilty about doing it than she now does. But knowing it is really an emotional vent for her, I don't think I will tell her not to - after all, the new baby may make her give it up more than any sermonising can.
And your feedback, Marian, was precious. Because you liked exactly the parts that I liked. Maybe I should aim for a book I like, rather than one that is all that a book should be.

@ Chris - like you, I cherish honesty more than almost anything else. And I wanted that more than I did anything else.

@ Tami - The waiting *is* agonizing. Didn't you blog about that too sometime? I wanted to link back to your post, but couldn't find it :-(
And the next time I offer to read something, I get back with quick comments immediately. Now I know how wrenching the wait can be.

@ Faith - I was really lucky, I heard back from another wonderful person the very next day, and she likes many of the things which my other friend did not like. Maybe I just go with my gut feeling?


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