An unexpected leap back to my past…

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ivanferrer executivo

Today I was passed a short piece of work (fiction) that had been written by an eleven year-old boy…the son of a friend of my wife.

I’d been asked for my opinion of the writing and I was happy to help. The lad who wrote it is currently enjoying ‘A Construct of Angels’ and is thrilled that his mother works with the wife of an author.

That’s me…in case you didn’t follow. :D

I was happy to read it, but as I picked it up, I found myself wishing that I’d known an author when I was eleven. True, I’d had a lot of encouragement from my English teacher when I was at senior school, but an author? They were unreachable, weren’t they? My only experience of authors at the time were the books of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. No, I had to set my sights just a little bit lower. I still remember being thrilled back in 1978 when a BBC Open University lecturer replied to my letter containing an astronomical query.

So I sat back, put on some distraction-cancelling music and read through the two pages that had been printed for me. I recognised the style instantly. Quick, hurried prose that showed an excitability; a joy at having the freedom and passion to write. It was an end-of-the-world scene, something that I had cut my junior teeth on back in the 1970’s. Almost everything I wrote in those days was end-of-the-world where the crowded and less-than-friendly society had been washed away, leaving only a few familiar comforts for my fledgling characters. Looking back, I think it was my mind’s way of reshaping the misery around me into something I could control better. I wasn’t having a happy time of it. An overbearing and abusive father coupled with bullying peers made for a pretty miserable life. However, I still hold the legacy of those embittered days in the form of ‘Homeworld’, my sci-fi saga (as yet unfinished, but that will change) where alien beings battle to survive war and the harsh conditions of their slow-turning world.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the submitted piece; The scene didn’t take long to read. It was only two pages long, but I had to admit that it was better than the lines that I had been turning out at the same age. We’re living in a different era now, it’s true. Eleven year-olds are wiser now than they were when I was a pre-teen. But regardless of that, it was a very good start to a potential life of writing fiction.

If I was able to pass on any advice to the young writer, I would simply say this; Never stop writing. If you love it, keep practising it. Read much – and not just your favourite genre. Follow others who have trodden this path before you, for there are many…and learn from their experiences, because their errors can only serve to smooth your path.

Oh, and make sure you know how your story will end – so you have something to aim your story towards. Don’t repeat my decades-long mistake of creating never-ending stories.

The best of luck in your endeavours.

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Woot! Awesome! 200 followers!

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untitled7

I’m very please to share this congratulatory message from WordPress – fresh from yesterday.

Can I offer a great big

Thank You

to everyone who has chosen to follow my random ramblings over the past ten months. It’s been a hugely enjoyable and education journey and I hope you’ve been able to glean at least one interesting or useful fact from my pages.

No laurels will be rested upon – the learning curve continues ever upwards!

In the meantime, Write On, everyone!

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The Next Big Thing

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next big thing

(A really BIG THING – loosely relevant image of the day)

I was very thoughfully tagged in The Next Big Thing  Author blog hop by Jon at  – what a great start to the New Year!

No, I haven’t seen a badge…despite back-tracking this award through several blogs.  I’m not sure that there is an official one, although I did borrow the image below from Michelle Proulx – hope you don’t mind, Michelle!

the next big thing

The Next Big Thing is part interview and part award, consisting of a series of questions about a writer’s latest work and how it came to be.

What is the working title of your book? It began as ‘Angels Instead’, partly as a nudge in the ribs towards the glut of vampire books and partly as a nod towards Robbie Williams’ song ‘Angels’ which contains the line ; ‘I’m loving angels instead.’  That line helped to drive this book from concept to completion, despite some very trying times.

What genre does your book fall under?  I originally categorised it as a paranormal romance but have since found out that it’s also an urban fantasy.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  One sentence?  Sheesh…it took me months to condense it down to two paragraphs.

*taps side of mouth thoughtfully.*

Okay, here goes.  A paramedic accidentally pulls an angel to Earth, where she discovers that he has only six days to save humanity from a terrible fate.

Where did you get the idea for your book?  A combination of ‘what if…?’ questions that coalesced into one story.  ‘What if a dead body suddenly came back to life?’  ‘What if Hell launched an all-out attack on Heaven?’ ‘What if a human fell in love with an angel (as opposed to a vampire or werewolf)?’

Who or what inspired you to write this book? It began as a collaboration with a friend, but our diverging ideas led to my story becoming a prequel to the main idea and her story as the future events that would follow.  Sadly, she didn’t continue with her part.  I very nearly foundered too, but Robbie Williams’ song, echoing in my head, made me determined to pick myself up and continue with my prequel.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The ‘Hell attacks Heaven’ idea was conceived in late 2009, but my part didn’t really take shape until March 2010.  I finished the first draft about a year later. 

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre? I deliberately haven’t read other Angel romances in order to avoid any story influencing and I haven’t found any Vampire romances that have a similar storyline, so I couldn’t really say.  I’d like to think my story was unique as it doesn’t feature any love-struck teenagers in high school, but of course, comparisons can always be made with other books.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  That’s an easy one to answer.  When I was writing my story I kept several celebrities in mind as visual character references.

jg

Janeanne Garafalo (The Truth about Cats and Dogs) would play Sara Finn, my main character,

How I imagine Michael might look

with Tom Ward (Silent Witness) as Michael the Angel.

rutger_hauer

A younger Rutger Hauer (in his Blade Runner days) would be ideal as the Aryan (the antagonist)

Alexander_Siddig

with Sara’s medical colleagues played by Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine)

Kyle McLachlan

and Kyle McLachlan.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I tried to interest every genre-relevant agency in the UK for over the course of a year, but no-one seemed to be interested.  I was about to begin targeting the US agencies when the notion of self-publishing occurred to me.  I’d seen many articles about it and with a good deal of help from several bloggers, I self-published in October 2012.

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?  The notion that Angels are constructed from clusters of souls.  That and the fact that Heaven is dangerously close to losing the war with Hell.

Thank you for taking part in the Next Big Thing Author Tour.

And now comes the point where I pass on the TNBT baton.

I’m to nominate five writers and bloggers who inspire, entertain and motivate me on a daily basis.

I’m going to try to avoid duplication so I’m not including patwoodblogging or Nightwolf’s Corner or Unravelling my Mind as Jon just nominated them and they’d be answering the same questions twice.

Michelle Proulx, Candace Knoebel and James Calbraith have also recently been tagged.

So I hereby nominate;

Ryan Casey

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Casey Voight

Introverted blogger

Writeminds authors

Briana at When I became an author

I have had so much fun in the short time I’ve been blogging – and I’ve learned a great deal in the process.  I look forward to learning more, sharing your experiences looking out for your latest (or debut) books in the various electronic outlets.

Write on in 2013!

Fame…such a fickle [fik-uh l] thing!

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This week, WordPress sent me two notifications and I was thrilled to read them.

Firstly this one;

100 likes

and then, shorty afterwards, this one;

50 followers

I’d just like to throw out a great big

Thank You

to everyone who has elected to follow my relatively random and possibly insane ramblings as I stumble and fumble my way through blogging.

I’m still astounded that I have been blogging for less than six months (I checked today) and people have found me interesting enough to push my following so high, so quickly.  Thank you again for following me whilst I continue to develop my (rather haphazard) style.

FYI…one of my (rather loose) resolutions for 2013 was to achieve fifty, then a hundred followers.  Ambitious, I know, especially when I told myself quite firmly (I can be tough on myself and often fear myself coming in the door) that I would not simply ‘trawl’ for followers, but interact with those bloggers whose content I find to be most fascinating, entertaining and instructional.

So if you’re reading this…it’s because I LOVE YOUR WORK!!

I hope I’m able to provide a little of the same in return.

(Alternatively, if you’ve dropped by on the offchance or because you think I have an odd Gravatar (I AM in there…bottom left)., then WELCOME!  Please join the throng)

My other rezzie in 2013 is to read through everyone’s posts – something that began to slip last year.  But I’ve now rearranged my inbox to collect all posts in one folder so that they won’t slip between the floorboards, as it were.

I look forward to following everyone’s content in 2013 – some of the New Year stories have already been hilarious.

Happy blogging everyone!

Write on in 2013!

The difficult second novel? Nah!

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inspiracion

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently well (15,500 words) into ‘A Vengeance of Angels’ (the sequel to ‘Construct’) and I’m re-discovering the joy of ‘pantsing’.

The writing is flowing well, still closely following the bamboo and creeper framework that I’d lashed together over a year ago when I was still begging agencies to consider ‘Construct’.

And this time around, I’m pleased to report, the writing feels different; more enjoyable.

With a year’s worth of editing  experience behind me, I have a clearer picture of the process from the first rough scratches through to the finished product.

I now know that I can roll along, throwing down my  ideas, comfortable in the knowledge that not everything I put into words will get used.  And with this comes a new kind of freedom from worry.

I don’t have to doublethink every sentence; every word uttered by my characters.   This time around I am aiming for continuity, rough adherence to the (flexible) framework but with a firm path towards the planned ending.

It’s refreshing to know that I don’t have to fret about what I’m writing – that can all be sorted out once the First Draft is complete – following the mandatory month-in-the-drawer, naturally.  What matters is that the ideas are recorded before they are lost to the white noise that is my ever-fizzing brain.

notebook and laptop

Experienced hands will already be aware of all this, so please forgive the egg-sucking instructions.

However, newbies may still (as I did) become mired in the spiralling hell that is the ‘must get that paragraph perfect before I move on’ routine.

Don’t!

Just pound that keyboard and pour all your relevant ideas onto that hard drive, pushing headlong until you have reached the end of your story.  That will then give you something to work with; something complete.

And if your Muse throws Chapter Two ideas at you when you’re racing through Chapter Ten, then by all means nip back, drop in a paragraph close to where it’s relevant and get right back to Chapter Ten.  Don’t (as I did) waste time and effort ‘blending it in’.  Just drag, drop and get on with it.  The idea will still be there in six months (more realistically, a year) when you are reviewing what you’ve written.

I regret now that I spent so much time ‘polishing’ what was essentially an unfinished product – a bit like applying sealant to a bath that was not only still in its packaging, but still on the delivery wagon.

If your story turns out to be anything like mine, in a year’s time, some of those ‘brilliant’ ideas may no longer be relevant.  Your character will (ideally) have grown as you’ve been writing and your original plan for them to rescue that drowning child in Chapter Two might no longer be in character for them.  You may need your character to be tortured and regretful by Chapter Twenty and NOT rescuing that child may be exactly what forces that character change.

So this is the point where, as they say, you don’t sweat the small stuff.  Not yet.

That comes later, once you’ve established all the motivations of your characters and where your story is heading…

Then begins the blood, sweat, tears and fingernail a la crue.

Writing is only the first part of the process.  Embrace the whole.

So;

Have you found that your approach to writing alters with experience?

What one piece of advice (post-it note sized only) would you give to your inexperienced self if you could get a message back to them using Sandra Bullock’s magical post box (The Lake House, 2008)?

Write on!

 

click me if you dare

Brand New Award

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My blogging history has been quite short, unlike my desire to publish a novel, which stretches back to my schooldays in the 1970’s.

I’ve been blogging since 2010, but only produced my first post in June of this year, thereby announcing to the blogsphere that I had finally screwed up enough courage to let others read my random ramblings.

Since then, I have been blessed with an avalanche of hints, tips and encouragement, without which my WIP would not have been catapulted forward to the very doorstep of eBook publishing possibility.  Yes, it’s imminent!

So I say, to all those bloggers who lowered down the golden hair of assistance from the towering heights of publication, a big, heartfelt THANK YOU.

In recognition of those who have helped me most directly, I have created this;

I hope it goes some way to illustrating my gratitude towards aspiring authors those who pause in their headlong race long enough to help us – the stragglers.

They didn’t have to…they could have simply concentrated on their own compelling journey.  But they didn’t – they reached out and shared their experiences; their knowledge.

Ryan Casey said to me; In this age of eBooking, writers are no longer in competition with each other – there’s enough room out there for us all.

And these helpful souls illustrated just what can be achieved if we all work together.

Now, I’m aware that every single post, every tiny nugget of information that a blogger publishes in a post can accumulate to contribute to the whole and this invaluable advice is reason enough to send thanks out to those who share.

But I can’t simply nominate everyone that I follow, even though I am already developing a guilt complex for not doing so.  *sigh.

So, I will nominate a small number of Most Helpful bloggers, those who have most directly inspired me and ask that you spread the nominations in turn to those who have offered you a helping hand along the way.

I’d also suggest that you might want to mention how they helped you and perhaps what kind of a difference their advice has made to your WIP.

Besides the above suggestions, there are no hard and fast rules to this award.  Let it evolve…feel free to improve upon it as it goes.

It will be interesting to see how it develops.

So, without further ado, I hereby nominate the following bloggers for their help, advice and encouragement;

Ryan Casey – for all his eBooking assistance and for pointing me towards Guido Henkel’s invaluable ‘Take Pride’ tutorial.

Sonya Loveday – for her love, encouragement and going ‘above and beyond’ (ie without sleep) to provide critique.

Pat Wood – for her constant encouragement and witty repartee.  Thank you, Ms. Arborea!  :)

Candace Knoebel - for blazing a Ravven-coloured trail that showed what could be achieved with hard work and dedication.

CA Hustead – for providing constructive comments when they were needed most.

Michelle Proulx – for inspiring me with her blow-by-blow descriptions of her ePublishing adventures.

Jon Simmonds of Jumpingfromcliffs – for his wise, thought-provoking comments and words of wisdom.

M D Kenning – for his guidance, hints, tips and experiences with eBooking and social media.

I also extend an open-armed and warm-hearted thank you to everyone else who has inspired me – even indirectly – and ask that you continue to share your wisdom and experiences so that we may all benefit and flourish as writers.

Write on!

It’s all about the journey

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I’d long been an avid cynic of reality TV shows such as X Factory, Pop Idle, Big Brooder, (disparaging mis-spellings intentional) et al, citing them as simple ratings magnets that were all hype and no substance.

I’d avoid them like the cliche, eschewing Saturday night television altogether, tutting at the oft-hyped results and the acres of tabloid coverage they seemed to generate.

But little by little, weekend visits to a friend’s house resulted in the television (which seemed to have no ‘off ‘ function) drawing my eye and ear towards the (often hapless) auditionees on ‘X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ every Saturday night. 

I found myself becoming intrigued, for no reason that I could fathom.  I didn’t know these people, these fame-seeking wannabes (only some of whom were quietly talented and later became successful) and yet I found myself increasingly drawn into their stories as they inched their way towards the stars.  I followed them from their earliest beginnings.  I saw their spotlight-dazzled faces as they shuffled reluctantly onto an over-large stage to croak out a few nervous bars of their favourite song.  And then I watched their eyes light up as the crowd called out its approval.

But why was I watching this IQ-sapping drivel; this thinly-disguised attempt to solicit viewers (and before you mentally compose hate-mail, please let me finish), this apparent waste of valuable writing time?

It suddenly became clear to me when I unexpectedly became hooked on yet another reality TV show – Masterchef.  

Hooked? Why?  I know nothing about food.  I can barely make mashed potato or an edible cheese sauce.  To this day I am still able to slide rock-hard frozen food onto a microwave platter with only a basic idea of why it emerges twenty minutes later as a hot, steaming meal.  I have no aspirations to create Langoustine consommé with lemon tuiles and pea puree, or to begin experimenting with molecular gastronomy (although liquid Nitrogen does look like a wonderful toy).

The chemistry of food defies my kind of logic.  It’s a pleasure to eat, true, but the assembly is an alien process to me and most likely will forever remain that way. 

But there I was, week after fascinated week, watching untrained but enthusiastic amateurs, their fumbling fingers creating elegantly-assembled dishes of confit duck on a bed of celeriac mash to Michelin-class standards.   But why?  In the name of the knife, fork and spoon, why??

Then it finally clicked.  The title of this post says it all.  It was about the journey.

We aspiring writers have very similar goals to those clumsy cooks, those shaking singers, those jittering jugglers.  We are all on the same journey of self-discovery – with the hope of our own selves being discovered.  Or our work, at least.

I realised that by watching these rising stars gain new skills and achieve undreamed-of heights, my thoughts were paralleling their journey with my own aspirations, because I hoped that I would also (one day) experience a similar journey. 

My mind had latched onto these stories in an unconscious act of self-preparation.

It may be that every individual who achieved the final three of Masterchef, X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent has already inspired me; proved to me that it IS possible to lift our (literary) voices from behind the background noise of society enough to be heard. 

Ordinary mortals like us can achieve great things.  But it takes time.  It takes a measure of confidence.  But it can require a good measure of encouragement from our peers too. 

It is perhaps because of all of this that I am mentally prepared for the next step of ePublishing, the quiet, stealthy equivalent of seeing my work in Bookers or Waterstones.  I dare to touch my toe to the chill waters of public consumption and say to them ‘nibble on that,’ whilst thinking ‘pleasedon’tbite, pleasedon’tbite!’

The journey from ‘I could write a book’ through ‘could I write a book?’ to ‘I have written a book’ is moving forward.  Who was it that said; ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’?

But where is your journey taking you? How far have you already come?

Have you been inspired by stories of success or sheer determination? 

Have you watched others climbing the ladder towards success, feeling that your journey was headed the same way?

Do you feel (particularly with ePublishing opening up new possibilities) that the impossible is now possible?

Share your story with us.  Tell us where your journey is taking you.

Write on – and encourage others to do the same in every way that you can.

  

Reader Appreciation Award

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This post has been a long time due and so, for that, I apologise.

The whirl of completing my Twelfth Draft, the decision to ePublish and the creating of my book cover scoured my brain of much of my daily to-do list.

Anyway, last month I was fortunate enough to receive a nomination for the Reader Appreciation Award, not once but twice!

Thank you Mymagical escape (I tried to find your name on your blog, but couldn’t) for this award.   I love the image – it just so happens that big, bright sunflowers are a favourite of mine.

Also, Sonya Loveday nominated me the following day, a lovely thought.

The conditions of this award seem to be similar to those of the Liebster and Lovely Blog awards.

I tried to back-track through Mymagicalescape’s nominator, Pat Wood or as I like to think of her, Caress Arborea *winks*, but I couldn’t find any specific conditions listed on her blog.

Sonya mentions that the Reader Appreciation Award Foundation stipulate six nominations, so I will do that, but add in Mymagicalescape’s format and write seven things about myself first – stuff that I haven’t already said after receiving previous nominations.

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1. I believe in Angels – just not necessarily the kind that appear in popular literature.

2. I live in the same town as Jenna Burtenshaw and have received a great deal of encouragement from her.

3.  It was my wife’s tottering stack of vampire novels that compelled me to write ‘A Construct of Angels’.

4.  Movie soundtracks inspire my writing.

5.  My ‘day job’ takes me all over the UK.  75% of the time it gifts me writing opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise enjoy.

6. Currently, my favourite writing tool is my Acer Netbook.

7. I am the closest I have ever been to publishing a book and cannot quite believe it.

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Now, the nominations;

I’m supposed to nominate six bloggers for this Reader Appreciation award, so here are my choices;

1. Candace Knoebel

2. Ryan Casey

3. M D Kenning

4. Sonya Loveday

5. Carly Sarah

6. Michelle Proulx

7. Abusively Baboozan

8. Pat Wood blogging

Oops – I can’t count.  I know Candace, Sonya and Carlyysarah had already been nominated by Mymagicalescape and Pat Wood nominated her in the first place, but I love them so much, I felt compelled to repeat the nomination.

Who’s to say that I can’t?  :p

Oh, oh.  Yellow card approaching from the Reader Appreciation Award Foundation.

Enjoy, bask if you like, but don’t forget to spread the love!

 

Write on!

Do you empathise with your characters?

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Do you?

I mean really get down into the mud with them and feel their pain as if it was your own?

In this age of guts, gore and death on both the big and the small screen, it’s all too easy to sit back and munch popcorn as a larger-than-life action figure takes a bullet, then fights on to the expected victory.  The heroine, meanwhile, hangs by a single finger over a fatal drop before she is rescued in the very last instant by a strong grip around her slender wrist.

Yeah, sure he groans as the bullet buries itself in his flesh.  She shrieks as her finger slips. 

But what do they really feel?  Can you, as a writer, firstly imagine the pain, the sheer terror that these characters ought to be feeling?  And can you, secondly, convince the reader that these unfortunate, suffering characters know that a life-stopping moment is but a heartbeat away?   We are all buzzing bags of emotion, not unfeeling machines.  Readers know this – and we must deliver. 

I’ve dreamed of plunging to my death in a car, then woken in a cold, shaking sweat, hardly able to convince myself that I’d survived.  In one brief moment, I’d mentally wrapped up my life, regretted things unfinished, and wondered if non-corporeal existence or oblivion awaited me.  Then; bang;  I was a crumpled statistic – but one with an answer.  One with an edge to create better death scenes; and to recognise shallow ones.  And although it was a dream, I’d been there.  I’d actually felt it.

If you’re in any doubt that you are tuned into your characters, retire to a quiet place after you’ve written your action sequence.   Become one with your character of choice.  Climb into their skin, then re-run the action.  Hang from a stone gargoyle one hundred storeys above the city.  Plunge over a waterfall, not knowing if you’re going to see the next minute.  Switch off all the lights and spin around three times to experience some of the disorientation of being inside a darkened warehouse (but please don’t injure yourself – even if you are researching pain!).

Better still, if the geography or architecture allows, visit the closest possible parallels to your scene and lean over that edge; feel the power of the wind and water.  Picture the last seconds of your life as gravity claims its prize. 

Your character would.

Imagine how you’d feel if someone close to you went over the edge instead; feel that anger, that helplessness, that utter and permanent loss.

And relax…breathe.  Then get it down on paper / screen.

I’ve dealt largely with falls so far.  Other fates are available, naturally. 

And of course, this technique doesn’t just apply to action scenes. 

Pain is not the only emotion;

Betrayal?  Your best friend has just eloped with your significant other / taken your expensive car / smuggled out your priceless show cat.  Get angry; feel betrayed.  Just don’t call that friend until you’ve simmered down and put your hurt and anger into black-and-white.

Love?  A trickier one this, one that relies on previous experience.   Think of it as the ultimate head-and-heart battle.  Except that the head belongs to an adult, and the heart is a wanton, wailing, selfish four-year-old that (almost) always gets their way.  How wrenching would that be as an internal monologue?

Fear?  There are many shades of fear, too many to list here.  Briefly, though; Fear of death (brief pain and it’s all over – but you might leave everything unfinished); Fear of loss – what is it that you could not stand to exist without?  Fear of change; your comfort zone – obliterated.

Feel them all – no, really.  Feel them all.  And then create characters that we can really relate to – and emotions that stir our own. 

What better than a novel that takes us upon a roller-coaster ride that leaves us emotionally wrought, but thoroughly satisfied?

For further reading I’d recommend Rivet your readers with Deep POV.  Please note that I am in no way affiliated with this work  – I just found it to be instructive.

So, over to you;

What techniques do you use to get beneath your character’s skin?  

Do you perform mental walk-throughs? 

Do you research on-line for the experiences of others, or even query them face-to-face?

Extra-genre readers – the ideal soution?

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My Muse has slipped her leash again…

My WIP is reaching (I hope) its conclusion.  Now in its twelfth incarnation, it has undergone numerous changes.  It has lost its original ending (recycled to a later book), 15,000 words, and its original POV format. 

The city in which the story was set has changed and even the genders of the two main characters has been switched round. 

As a result, the very early notes bear almost no resemblance to the later and completed story.  I imagine that this isn’t unusual, though.

But what I don’t know, despite all of this upheaval, is this; has the story improved at all?

From version 5.0, the first form in which I was prepared to let anyone else read it, my WIP has been passed out to more than a dozen friendly readers.

This has normally been followed by an ear-straining silence from them.

I can’t help but wonder (nail-biting newbie writer that I am) if this is because my work is so appallingly bad, stuffed with cliches and bad dialogue, that they can’t bring themselves to tell me the truth for fear of hurting my (admittedly sensitive) feelings.

Patience (for several weeks), polite queries (have you had a chance to read?’ and ‘hope I’m not bothering you, but…’) that are answered by ‘um…not yet’ or ‘I started on it, but…’ only encourage the fear-Kraken to rise anew from the depths.

My thoughts spiral down into ever-tightening coils of concern;

They’ve read it.

They must have.

And they HATE IT!

But how do I get them to admit it?

Do I want them to admit it?

The whole subject becomes an elephant in the room; a source of tension.

Mild paranoia sets in; 

Do I say something? 

Do I say nothing? 

If I ask them, will they resent me for it and hate whatever I’ve written and still not tell me?  Or worse – they might just say it’s nice.  But if I say nothing will they just forget to read it or believe I don’t care what they think?

What’s an uncertain writer to do?

At the other end of the scale, ephemeral feedback such as; ‘I thought there was too much dialogue,’  ‘Yeah, it was good’ and ‘I liked it,’ (yes, I’ve had all three) is worse than useless to a writer.  How can anyone glean anything remotely useful from that?

Scathing criticism, on the other hand, can completely shatter a writer’s confidence.  ‘We can see no market for this type of story,’ one agent told me.

Hmm, no market for supernatural romance.  I see.  Better pass that onto Alyson Noel, PC Cast, Stephenie Meyer et al.

So, already traumatised beyond all reason by this experience, the newbie writer explores another avenue – that of the impartial reader.  Other writers seem like a good choice.  After all, they’re in the same game, right?  They should know a good effort from a stinker, correct?

Only is everyone is honest.

Propping up another writer’s ego with praise when cold, honest critique ought to be levied would be a sin – as bad as well-meaning friends who can’t bring themselves to voice their honest opinion – ‘it needs more work’ (citing Chapter X, paragraph Y as ‘completely confusing’ or ‘difficult to read’).

The most encouraging comments I have received in the past few weeks have been from fellow bloggers (and one friendly reader asking for ‘more, please’ by email).

It’s made me wonder, having seen what others are writing, if reading outside our own genre would produce the best (and the most impartial) feedback.

For One, the reader is less likely to get drawn into the story to the exclusion of remaining ‘editorial’.  I would never have chosen to read a contemporary book about a teenage runaway who gets sold into the slave trade,and yet, when it was passed to me, I was able to read, enjoy and yet remain detatched enough to be able to critique it.  The story has stayed with me to this day.

For Two, the reader is less likely to make numerous comparisons with their own WIP – and there will be less risk of ‘idea trawling’ – a reassurance for the writer involved.

So I hereby pledge (*raises right hand) to read more of other’s work, whatever the genre, to judge it impartially and honestly, even at the risk of providing feedback that may not be exactly what the writer wishes to hear.  

What are your thoughts on feedback?  Could you you cope with honest, if discomfiting, critique?  Could you remain on speaking terms with someone who described your WIP as ‘too slow’ or ‘unengaging?’ 

Write on!

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