After numerous hideaway weekends and another Kauai hell week (those words shouldn’t go together, but here they do) I believed I had a saleable manuscript. It was spring of 2010. It was at this point that I started showing it to friends and requesting feedback. As it turned out, most of my friends liked it without reservation, and the friends who had some reservations had helpful comments.
In the meantime, I participated in a charity auction for agents reads in order to get some professional eyes on my manuscript. I debated whether this was cheating, but finally decided that all I was paying for was the opportunity to have someone read my book; it wasn’t as if that guaranteed me anything beyond a critique. I secured reads from 4 agents, with deadlines in the fall of 2010.
I turned in the manuscript at the end of October and received critiques from three of the agents. Here’s what I learned:
When writing a novel, listen to what people say about how the novel affects them emotionally. You need to know this, because you need to know if you’re expressing what you mean to express. By all means, listen to this feedback.
But, when they get to the part where they tell you how to fix it, stop listening.
My friends all liked my novel, but some didn’t think that certain parts were credible enough, or they found characters hard to connect with. These were legitimate concerns. I showed the novel to my friends because I wanted their opinions; I wanted to know how the book affected them and whether I had achieved what I intended.
What I didn’t understand then, but understand painfully now, is that while someone might be completely on the mark about how the work feels, that doesn’t mean that they know the best way for the author to achieve the intended emotional impact.
Unfortunately I didn’t get this until after I spend several months on revisions that were not the right revisions. I realize now that I cut the heart out of my book and I need to put it back in.
The good news is, I’m more confident that I can do this than I was about making the suggested revisions. I can see now that while the original lacked some detail it had heart; I can restore the heart and still include the detail I need to make the story believable.
Next up; how research can save you from some very uncomfortable showers.