Sunday, 4 September 2011

Waiting in the wings and doing the right thing.

I have had feed back from two of my four readers - and both are really positive, although I'll need to make a few more tweaks and probably need to add one more scene/chapter. Waiting for the other two sets of feedback is a bit like waiting in the wings to go on stage. I am plagued with angst about the impression my "performance" will give to my audience.

I was a little miffed when I had dinner with one of the four readers on Friday, expecting a full feedback only to discover the reader had only got as far as page 35 and, contrary to my specific requests, had embarked upon a close read and mark up. This particular reader is the only one of the four who knows my characters to any real degree. He was my original mentor, though is not specifically a creative writer - more an academic one. That explains his habitual inability to refrain from marking up I guess. I did feel rather flat after seeing him though as he said to me he felt he knew what was comming in the novel, because he already knew the story . This is partly true but not really. He did know alot about the story as it stood when it was a short piece more than 2 years ago but it has changed almost beyond recognition. It has made me think that probably it's not a good idea to give your manuscript to people who already know (or think they know) too much about your plot and characters. This reinforces what I thought about holding off from showing anything more to agents who've asked to see more - other than the completed finished manuscript in it's enitity when it's ready. How else can one gauge what impression someone will have of the novel as a whole. If they 've seen substantial bits, in my view, the overall impact is lessened as they can half guess what they think will follow.This may or (in my case) maynot be accurate. So I think have done the right thing in holding off from submitting anything more to agents until I have the whole manuscript ready.
And this is now only a few weeks off.
Ben Gosling


  1. I very much agree about how once you've shown someone part of your novel in development then it's virtually impossible for them to view it in the same way as a 'fresh' reader would -- and that's the readership you need to sell the novel to.

    Also, as you point out with your detailed marking-up reader, there is a 'workshopping' mode that people who've been taught creative writing go into when they closely scrutinise a text that is completely alien to the normal experience of reading a novel for pleasure. They take the plot and character aspects as read and focus on micro-details, like punctuation or technical issues such as POV. Not that these are unimportant -- they need to be right -- BUT they are secondary to what holds readers' interest in a novel -- which is usually the 'what comes next?' factor.

  2. I agree with this a bit, but I have also found that you need to set up your expectations towards the reader's strength. In other words, if his strength is a close edit, ask him for one, even if you don't think it's what you want. You'd rather have your reader do what he's strongest at instead of him doing a weaker job at what you'd want him to do. For example, if he says he knows what's coming, that may not be good, even if he knows the story and character. Even your most consistent reader should be intrigued every now and then.