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Serialised Fiction – Part Two

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OK, so this week I sucked at my own deadline.  I didn’t even get ONE full episode done this week, let alone two!  I DID manage to write a few scenes from throughout the series, and also to get my “new, revised” arc down and locked.  Go me! 

Since I totally suck at actually getting the writing done (Despite the “official” deadlines I have) I thought I’d write a post about editing

Yes, because I’ve never done that before. 

Constructive Feedback

How would you classify this kind of feedback?  Well, anything that helps really.  You may share your work in progress with friends or family, you may be part of a writing group, or if you’re lucky (as I am) you may have a few dedicated writing buddies who exchange work from time to time.  Writing groups though, may be a little hit and miss.  I used to attend a writing group – long disbanded now – where we often exchanged work to receive feedback.  Well I’ll tell you, the few of us who were regular attendee’s had various projects on the go, some had a serious volume of work behind them, others just wrote occasionally for pleasure.  However, I found the group somewhat disappointing and occasionally frustrating.  Why was this?  Primarily it was because the majority of the feedback was – and this wasn’t just to my work here – along the lines of “I really liked it”, or “that was really good.” Which as we all know is not feedback at all.  It doesn’t particularly help you as a writer to know that someone liked your work. 

I further remember at university when we had our feedback sessions each week.  Now I don’t want to appear harsh to anyone, but you could tell who was serious about writing and who was just doing it to pass the unit.  The work that was workshopped just to pass the unit lacked a certain something.  Some of the work was just plain bad.  I’m not saying they were bad writers, only some submissions were.  I would torture myself every Sunday, writing detailed feedback, giving notes – most of it (hopefully) constructive, even on the work that I didn’t like, or the work that was clearly just for the mark.  But I did it because lets face it, if you can’t get good at analysing other people’s work, how are you going to be good at analysing your own? 

But I digress. 

Utilising Feedback

The feedback I’m concerning myself with here is in an official capacity.  Anyone who hopes to get published is obviously going to need to have their work read and, well, edited, by an editor.  Now I’ve never had this before.  Obviously I’ve had feedback from friends, and I’ve made alterations based on that (or not, depending), but getting notes and suggestions from an actual editor in an official capacity is a whole different beast. 

It is different because if you totally ignore everything the editor tells you, then they won’t work with you, and you wont get published.  I’ll be honest, this is what terrifies me!  After my first round of notes I got back, I had that voice in the back of my head saying, “change everything she wants you to!  Do whatever she says!  If you don’t she’ll ditch you and your story wont get published!” 

But this is the other end of the extreme.  If you do change everything your editor tells you to, then you’ll more than likely get ditched too.  Nobody wants to work with someone who is a pushover. 

So where is the middle ground?  While I like to think that I give mostly constructive feedback, as far as I recall, I have never (or at least very rarely) replaced the writer’s text.  I may suggest alternatives to certain lines of dialogue and so fourth, but plain rewriting someone’s text is – I find anyway – a little rude.  It may appear that you don’t trust or believe in the writer’s voice, or that you feel you can do a better job.  Now it’s fine to maybe suggest a replacement line of dialogue if it’s a real clanger.  God knows I’ve written some god awful dialogue in my past.  What writer hasn’t?  I keep a hold of that and sometimes, when I’m dissatisfied with a writing session, I just tell myself “Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as…” 

The Middle Ground

No, the middle ground is to take on board any notes and suggestions, and change your writing accordingly, your own way, in your own voice.  With each piece of feedback I get, my online editor gives me a list of questions to do with the episodes, which gives me some indications as to what is clear and what isn’t.  This is I find very useful.  Don’t replace text when you give feedback, but ask questions. If you ask questions of the writer, it is the clearest indication of what it is that works and what doesn’t.

My editor also makes alterations (suggests alterations) to the text, and I will mostly (but not always) alter the text, or change a scene, to accommodate.  After all, if you receive feedback on one chapter at a time (or an episode at a time, in my case) there may be material in there that doesn’t make immediate sense, but is clarified in a later episode.

It’s about getting used to not being precious about your work.  But it also opens up new avenues.  I think I mentioned in my last post that this series is big.  And dense.  There is so much stuff in it and I’ll be honest, it isn’t all going to fit in the one series.  Also, some of the characters are superfluous.  In context to how I originally envisioned it, as prose, then yes, you can include the smaller characters, the ones who are in the background most of the time, who don’t have main storylines.  However, scripting is a different beast.  Eight main characters and almost a dozen supporting may work in a book of prose, but in a series?  Can you name a series which has a main cast of almost ten characters and more than that in recurring roles?  Shut up about Lost! So you have to cut some.  And while some of my characters were heavily under-developed anyway, it has been suggested that I lose some characters from various scenes and replace them with others.  And this does cause me a little pain. 

However!  It does also get my creative juices flowing.  It’s part of the thinking on your feet thing.  Making the given suggestions work within the greater context.  And it has actually helped a few more of the pieces fall into place for me.

 Now all I need to do is write them!