Feedback night was great (I can’t wait to do it again). I am exceedingly grateful to my friends Travis and Liz for spending the evening with me chatting about politics, life, books, and specifically my book. It is still somewhat amazing to me that people would actually want to put that much effort into helping.
I like to start out with a nice open question, “What three things do you like?” and then “What three things don’t you like?”. In this case, their lists were very similar. The overlap on what they liked tells me that I’m doing well, particularly with my main character, and two of the three things they didn’t like were exactly the same. In fact, one of the don’t likes is that there is an interesting part of my fictional world that both of them really want to see more. That’s not a bad dislike at all. From there we talked a little generally about impressions, before Liz drove us into the mechanics because she had some very specific unanswered questions about how my world worked. Some of her questions I had answers to that just weren’t in the text and others, well I hadn’t figured out for myself yet 🙂 . We then talked about the plot and the mechanics of the investigation (the story is a murder mystery). They helped me to see a few places where the plot didn’t quite fit together and most importantly some of the ways that my investigation needs improvement, mostly there the main character either gets lucky or there is an atrocious (my descriptor) repetitious clue discovery due to an utter lack of creativity on the author’s part. What can I say, it’s still a draft. Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was when we were discussing characterization of the secondary characters and I asked them what they thought about me changing a particular character from male to female. They both laughed. This lead to a fifteen minute discussion on how that would be a good idea for the story as a whole and work well as a foil to the main character. Several times later we referred back to this and had a little chuckle. Well, I chuckled, but then it was my idea and I do tend to find myself funny.
So this morning, I got up, had my coffee, and I’m sipping it feeling pretty good about all of the great feedback that I got. In fact, I feel so good that I want to blow off any of the other tasks that I might need to do today in order to jump in and officially start the 3rd draft, to some degree that’s why I’m sitting here writing this now. The thing is, as I thought through it, I got A LOT of feedback and it is a BIG book. I have four pages of notes. These aren’t particularly detailed, they’re ideas caught in conversation (think four pages of notes from a fast lecture). Then I’ve got two pages of written notes from Travis and a couple of pages each of typed notes from each of them. I am most definitely having a little bit of a where do I start reaction. My inner critic is telling me to start at the beginning, but I don’t think that that is the right answer.
For my last draft, I started at page one and edited straight through linearly. As I went, I had a few new ideas and I made note of them, but kept proceeding linearly. After I got to the end, I circled back and plugged my new ideas in. This time I don’t think that I’m going to do that. I’m thinking more along the lines of taking the things I want to change, plugging them in individually, and then following the ripple. What I mean by the ripple is that when you make a change to a part of the action, for instance I am going to change how my lead character gets contracted to find the bad guy in Chapter 3, there will be a ripple effect (I like to actually visualize a small wave bubbling under the paragraphs and moving done the chapters) through the rest of the story. So my first thought is to identify individually each of these elements that I want to change, then to change it, follow the ripple through, and move on to the next one once finished. After that, I’ll probably go back and look at the comments they made about individual chapters and see what I need to adjust there. Then, I don’t know, maybe I’ll be done with the draft and hunting for readers again.
OK, I feel better, now I’ve got a starting point. I guess it’s time to do those chores I’m avoiding and maybe I’ll get to play with the novel a little later! 😀