Monday, June 14, 2010

If only I'd thought of the right words

I'm pretty good, at this point, at knowing when a story is broken. Sometimes, though this happens pretty rarely, I even know how to fix it. More often, I send the story (or the novel) around to my beta readers with a request: "I know the ending is weak. How do I make it right?" or "I can't figure out how to convey what my pov character wants here" or some other such thing.

Beta readers, for those who might be unfamiliar with the term, are the people who read my work in draft, and lovingly tell me all the things I've messed up this time how I might make the story stronger.

Beta readers are, I believe, one of the most important resources a writer has. Sometimes, it's hard to see the broken places in a story, much less understand how to fix them. Sometimes a story isn't so much broken, as it is just... meh. Flat. Fine, but nothing more.

I don't particularly want to write stories that are fine

There was a subplot in Linger that was fine. I didn't love it, but it did what I needed it to in the story. I tweaked it a little, every time I went through and revised, and it got a little better each time. I had gotten comments back on it, but the comments were all over the place - each potential fix was drastically different from the next. Sometimes this means the story is right as it is. In this case, it meant that I hadn't been clear enough about what I needed that subplot to do for my readers to tell if that was what has happening.

Every time I went back and revised, I thought about those comments. Last week, I started what I thought was going to be my final revision. Where, basically, I would just be polishing the manuscript. And I realized what was wrong, and how to fix it. 

This is good, because I realized it now, before I've sent the manuscript out on the market. This is... somewhat annoying, because it means a fairly serious rewrite, rather than just a revision. (Annoying enough that, I'll be honest, I was briefly tempted to just leave things as they were. Then I put on my big girl pants, and started cutting text.)

The point it, I couldn't have done this in isolation. Without those people who picked apart the text, who gave feedback that wasn't "Ooh, this is awesome" but was "You know, this isn't working for me" Linger would be a lesser thing.

I can't be fine with that.

1 comment:

  1. *raises glass to the long-suffering betas*
    May they always be around to lovingly kick our arses closer to perfection! ;)