The Joy and the Terror of Feedback

After battling a nasty virus I am back at the keyboard working on book three. Over the last few days, I’ve been able to have a range of folks read the early, un-edited chapters. I noticed that about half the people were tripping up on the same, small detail. I gave Annie, the female MC, a not-well-understood kind of social anxiety. I thought it would be interesting to see how it relates to her early life and how it shapes her choices in the book. I like my characters to be as complex as real-life humans so I added it. It’s a light touch but, too many readers are tripping on it.

Y’know how it is when you’re reading along at a good clip and you ‘trip’ on something? It’s a sentence that you have to read over and over again or a detail that seems wholly out of place, or a trait that seems out of character? It’s a loose thread, a bump in the road, a question mark that hangs in the air. I don’t want anyone getting thrown by a detail that shouldn’t be there, so I’m yanking it. As a character, she’s got a lot going on and this doesn’t drive the plot so it’s gotta go. It means rewriting some scenes, but that’s worth it if it makes the book better.

Sometimes as authors, we get so caught up in working on our trees that we can’t see the forest we’ve created. We go from thinking what we’ve written is pure gold to being convinced it’s utter garbage. Seriously.

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It’s a constant struggle to keep writing one word after another while battling the conviction it’s all terrible. Getting feedback on a first draft is terrifying because you’re half-convinced it’s trash to begin with. It’s an essential part of the process though. One that every book benefits from.

When you think about it, books aren’t really done when they hit the shelf. They need a reader to finish them. They will bring their own life experience to a book and in reading it, see things the author didn’t even know were in there. That’s probably my favorite thing about writing books, seeing what readers think. I remember sitting in a crit seminar in college and getting feedback on my short story. (see this Q&A on Goodreads for the sorry end of that story) More than one person talked about how I had used the description of the setting sun as a deep metaphor for what was taking place between the two characters. Reader, I had done no such thing, not intentionally. That’s the beauty of writing.

So if you ever want to comment on anything I’ve written – please do! I love each and every comment I get. There are hard days when I’m convinced I’m a hack and I end up going to Amazon and reading my reviews to get a little perspective. For every person who has ever said a kind or encouraging word, thank you. For every person who has given me critical feedback, thank you. I use every word. I’m hoping that this third book, the final in the series, is also the best. If it is, it will be because of all the great feedback readers have given me.

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