The biggest challenge I faced when I wrote my first novel was understanding which elements worked, which didn’t and how to take my manuscript from good to great. As writers know, it can be hard to take a step back from your work and look at it objectively; it’s easy to get attached to scenes, sentences and characters in an I-gave-you-life sort of way. So I did what many aspiring novelists do, I shared my work with a writers’ group and sought feedback from friends and family in my target readership. All of this was helpful…but only to an extent.
With writers’ groups, or at least the one I was part of, there were varying levels of writers in attendance. In my case, no one in the group had substantial publishing experience or success (and the ones who did had stopped attending the meetings). As a result, I found myself trying to weigh the value and accuracy of each person’s feedback and it quickly became a question of who do you trust?
With friends and family, I got a couple excellent suggestions about a character who needed more flaws and a storyline that was too cliche (perfect advice on both accounts!). But for the most part, I discovered that among my friends and family it’s really hard to find people who aren’t afraid of hurting my feelings (I love them for that!).
When I wrote my second novel, I decided to take a different route and hire a book doctor to professionally critique my manuscript. I chose someone with ample industry experience and success, someone whose crediblity I could trust. The result? A 14-page report detailing what’s working well, what’s not, and ideas for how I can strengthen my story. (Awesome!!)
The verdict? To my relief, nowhere in Marlene‘s write-up did she say anything about my writing sucking. Instead, she said, “I found it to be very readable and thought your prose was clean and vivid, your story moving and dramatic.”
Clean and vivid prose! A moving and dramatic story! Even though the 13 pages that followed were full of questions that need answering, storylines that need reconsidering, characters that need further developing, and structural issues that need fixing, I’m very encouraged to hear that someone of her caliber feels that both my writing and the core story have potential, because the rest can be fixed.
Next up: I’m meeting with Marlene to discuss her feedback in more detail and organize a plan of attack for my next revision. Stay tuned for more…
Writer friends: Where do you seek trustworthy feedback on your writing?