Yesterday, I had a bad day. Well morning, really. It did get better as the hours passed. Because, after I'd mopped up my tears and swept away my frustrations, I climbed out from under my duvet, made a cuppa, and grabbed a bar of chocolate, and then I decided to do something brave. I thought I might as well. Why not, right? Fight back, take charge, live a little.
Dramatic, for sure, but my brave act led to me hovering in the middle of a dilemma I know a lot of writers experience.
I've been writing a middle grade uplit contemporary that's a pretty personal story and, other than a couple of CPs reading it, I've kept it pretty much hidden, private, surrounded by a protective shield because oh my heart might break if people don't get it... The whole process has been lengthy and taken me right out of my comfort zone, forcing me to ask a lot of questions. But all for good reasons.
Anyway, I'm not here to talk about me; I want to talk about the feedback I received on the first 1000 words I sent out to a variety of readers yesterday.
Each reader is a writer of MG at varying stages of their careers, and all the feedback offered to me was kind, thoughtful, and helpful. I specifically asked for immediate feelings and thoughts as opposed to in-depth critique because I wanted to gauge reader immersion, voice, pacing, and connection. I am EXTREMELY GRATEFUL to each of these wonderful people for taking the time out of their day for me. You guys rock! :)
But, what I soon realised as the feedback hit my inbox was, EVERYONE HAD SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO SAY!
And I'm not even exaggerating a tiny bit. I received no two pieces of feedback the same.
A few examples:
One reader said they wanted something bigger and more challenging to happen.
One reader said they thought there was way too much happening.
One reader suggested removing a medical term.
One reader thought the use of the medical term was clever.
One reader wanted to get inside the MC's head more.
One reader said the balance of internal and external was spot on.
You get the picture!
So, as I sat pondering each nugget of golden advice, I came upon two solid pieces of my own:
1. It's good, but something isn't quite right about these opening pages.
2. My only option is to choose what feels right for me and my story.
Yep. The one thing that would have made my life much easier in this situation would have been consistency; at least two or three readers saying "Yeah, this didn't work for me" or "I couldn't connect with your MC" or "I got confused here" and so on. Which means the only way to move forward is to trust myself and stay true to the vision and voice of my work.
Obviously I can't run with every piece of feedback -- bummer. So, my plan of attack now is to copy every piece of advice and then to consider each carefully -- deciding how major the comment is, and maybe even incorporating it in a trial page to see if 1. it works with my and my MC's voice, and 2. what the knock-on effects might be -- and finally to decide if it works for what I want from these opening pages.
I know, and every writer needs to remember, that NO READER IS THE SAME. And this is a blessing. It means from all the feedback we receive -- and I suggest getting as much as you can from a range of different people -- we, the writer, get to listen to different viewpoints we might never have considered and understand what is or isn't coming across in the words we've chosen. And then WE GET TO FIX IT AND MAKE IT SHINIER!
And that's where I am today. I can't wait to get cracking on revisions. :)
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