The good news
I’ve finished going through the reader feedback from my last novel over the weekend. It took a bit more time than I anticipated because I’d gotten great feedback. All in all, the manuscript should be very clean. And, I learned some things along the way too.
I started with my First Reader‘s typo catches and alerts. When I finished that, I circled back to do the recommendations of Spark from Adventures in Sparkland, who also caught many typos and word choice errors, not to mention a few flat-out mistakes along the way.
I got reader impressions from a third reader, then I went back to Spark’s input and made those changes. Many of those in the typo/misspelling category were corrected after my First Reader pass, but Spark offered some insights to how the story looked to those who’ve never set foot in the world for those characters before.
The bad news
Because Spark didn’t read the prequel (actually, the unpublished Book 1 of the series), she wasn’t as familiar with the characters and their histories. So she asked me some terrific questions I had to answer. Two of those still linger, as I finalize the manuscript. I have to find an elegant solution to the problems raised, not beat the reader over the head, and have the information imparted in enough detail to satisfy the need.
Now, as a storyteller, this is a bruise on the ego. I have to admit I dropped the ball. The story needed telling in such a way those things wouldn’t be questions the reader is left with, but questions the storyteller should answer before the reader knows to ask them. That’s what master storytellers do, after all – anticipate the needs of the reader before the reader realizes they have a need.
Storytelling isn’t the same as writing. I’ve gone over that recent (for me) revelation here before. Storytelling is controlling what the reader experiences and feels at every step, and while I’m working toward that goal now, I have to admit to myself I’m not there yet.
The good news
On the other hand, I can also say with certainty the fixes for the problems remaining to address do not, in any way, involve rewriting the manuscript. We’re talking about plants here, not revisions. There aren’t going to be large sections of the book to rework to fix the issues. And that is the power in the Writing into the Dark method.
I’ll be able to go back and insert a few lines, perhaps a paragraph or two, and resolve the issues with reader questions. In one case, the problem is more ambiguity, leaving a bit too much to the reader’s own imagination, when really what they needed was further exposition on the point.
Still an easy fix, in all cases. Clarify one section with a little bolstering – one, maybe two paragraphs maximum. Then insert a line or two in vari0us opportunistic spots to solidify reader understanding on the other points. And I’ll be finished with a stronger story still.
The bad news
One of the lingering issues happens to be the ending, which means, despite my best effort, I still dropped the ending a little. Not bad, not devastating, but still dropped. So in two areas I need clarifying exposition to clean up and strengthen the story.
I’d rather it not be the ending, but it’s nothing difficult to repair.
I think, based on feedback I got, there are a few things I’ll do differently next time I ask for reader impressions.
First, I’ll spell check the manuscript myself. Some of what came back to me would’ve passed through a standard spell checker anyway, (“you’re” instead of “your”, “to” instead of “too” kind of thing), but my readers caught so many of those little things I’m not worried about them going forward.
If a reader’s willing to give me such an investment in their time, the least I can do is give them a clean(er) manuscript to go through, so it isn’t so distracting.
Second, I’ll let my First Reader do whatever she wants first. Whatever level of inspection she wants to make on the manuscript, I’ll go over her recommendations first, before sending it out to others. That way they’re not wasting their time duplicating her efforts. And the manuscript is cleaner still.
Finally, I won’t create the Word document from Scrivener. Spark had a difficult time with the commenting system and I wonder, though can’t know for sure, whether the export from Scrivener did that, or whether it’s a difference between Word versions. I want this to be as painless for the person kindly giving me feedback as possible.
I also would like to know if there’s a proper way to show gratitude for the favor they did for me. I was going to offer a hardbound copy of the book to each person who read it for me when it’s printed, but that seems…well, narcissistic. I can’t imagine what that looks like from the other end. So I’ll need to put some thought into that.
I’m very grateful to all the people who were thoughtful enough to read my story, take the time from their daily activities to provide me guidance on how to improve it, and were gracious enough not to say “This sucked so much I couldn’t get past the opening.” So there’s that. Thanks, everyone!
So, we’re getting close. But Book 1 is still hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles, and I haven’t forgotten I can’t (shouldn’t?) publish this one until that one is up and live in the world.