Monday, April 12, 2010

Would you stand up and walk out on me?

I have begun to hear back from my beta-readers with feedback for the revision of Linger. I have a love-hate relationship with getting feedback on my writing. (Not with my beta-readers. For them, all I have is love. Seriously. Anyone who takes time out of their life to give me critical feedback on a novel-in-draft rocks. Hard. Let me know which kidney you want, guys.) But for actually getting the feedback.

I mean, look. I know the novel isn't perfect. I know this because no one has yet shown up to deliver unto me by fiat the Nobel, a Pulitzer, and a Hugo, wrapped in a shiny film option. But the thing about critical feedback, is it's critical. I didn't ask these people to give me warm fuzzy pats on the back and praise my elegant turn of phrase and piquant deployment of metaphor. I asked them to read my manuscript and be ruthless, because I want it to be better. To be as great as I can make it.

That doesn't mean there isn't a part of me that secretly wishes that someone would love the novel, just as it is. Or that I don't get a little discouraged when my literary inadequacies are illuminated. Because I tried, as hard as I could, to get it right the first time, you know? But there's that gap, between the shape of the story in my head, and the words that are on the page. And I'm too close to the story in my head to see when the words on the page don't tell it. Sometimes when I thought I was leaning into the blade, I was just giving myself a papercut, and I need someone to stand behind me and push.


  1. I won't push!

    I certainly can relate when you refer to, "a part of me that secretly wishes that someone would love the novel, just as it is." One thing I realized is that, once you ask people, esp. fellow writers, for "feedback", that feedback will be critical, because that's what they'll think will be most helpful. And there is no novel, no matter how good or promising, that is not shred-able.

    There are times when I deliberately don't ask for feedback, because I don't want to be grateful for being told (again) just how inadequate my stuff is. I have the nagging suspicion that writing is really the art of knowing when to ask for feedback, and when to forge ahead and just ignore the suboptimality of your writing...

    Ha ha, and I just saw your tag, "words on the page are the only ones people can read." This makes me think that stories/ books should come with a brain plug, for running author's commentary and footnotes. VoilĂ , problem solved!

    You know what my guess is? My guess is that you'll write the new novel, and then go back to Linger, and immediately figure out what you want to do. Maybe you'll even rewrite it from scratch.

    Finally, the people reading your (published) book will have no inkling of how horrifying the revision process is. They'll just say, "cool."

  2. I think you're absolutely right - sometimes you do need to step back, and let other people poke at the weak spots, and other times it's best to just write through them.

    And I was thinking I could start publishing things with DVD extras. The deleted scenes, the author's commentary about how chapter 14 was actually rewritten 27 times, about how I think Raven must be a trickster god, because every time the ravens showed up, my story went to hell in a handbasket....