The Benefits of Unfiltered Feedback

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been passing early drafts of A Gothic Symphony to a few close friends, just for initial reactions and feedback. This isn’t even strictly beta-reading, because I don’t expect synopses of issues, plot breakdowns, or grammar/spelling corrections. That will come later; at the moment, I’m just hoping they don’t hate it.

Even while they’re reading it, I’m continuing to work hard on the initial editing and revision process—correcting plot holes, fixing continuity, and deleting unnecessary scenes and paragraphs to tighten the overall narrative. Once I’m done with that, I’m hoping to be able to incorporate some of my friends’ feedback, and have something that I’m willing to let unknowns read: true beta-reading. (Incidentally, let me know in the comments if this is something you’d be interested in.)

Nonetheless, one of my friends is particularly good at delivering feedback in an impartial, practical way (I’m quite sensitive to feedback from people I’m close to—it tends to hurt), and has already made several great observations, from dialect and slang seeming to hop the Atlantic from time to time (I started writing whilst still living in England), to the fact that she didn’t particularly care about the main character until almost a third of the way through the book.

I genuinely appreciate this kind of conversation, because it lets me see bigger picture problems that, in being so close to the story, I can’t always perceive right away. I’m so invested in these characters that it was a surprise to hear that there was nothing in particular about them that stood out until a particular scene in the ninth chapter. This is a problem, because I have to be able to hook agents in the first chapter, and it’s possibly sounding like that isn’t happening.

The difficulty, of course, is then acting on and implementing that feedback. Whilst it’s easy to fix syntax, grammar and language issues, it’s much more difficult to get someone to care about characters when in the current narrative, they kind of don’t. That’s going to involve extensive rewrites at that point. And I’m lazy.

And that’s probably my biggest fear: while the story might ultimately be rewarding and worth reading, it needs to feel that way from the outset. I understand that doesn’t mean the shock moments and plot twists have to happen in the first ten pages, but somehow I need to find a way to engage the reader more quickly.

Le sigh. I know I’ll figure it out, but I really just don’t want to be writing entire new chapters in lieu of the ones that are already there … even though I know I’m probably going to have to. It’s so hard to judge your own work—hence the value of feedback.

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