A few months back, I was lucky enough to be graced with a draft of Matt’s most recent Work In Progress, which I read, thought about, then mercilessly ripped apart.
Ok, so that last part might not be entirely accurate. It does however provide me with the topic of this weeks post: Feedback.
That is the sound that feedback makes.
This is of course an essential part of the editorial process. It’s all well and good endlessly redrafting a piece of work, but there will always be that degree of uncertainty until someone else actually reads it. That is, after all, the ultimate goal, right? To have others read your work.
Actually finding people who you can trust to read it and provide you with said feedback can be a little more tricky. If you’re a student, particularly of writing, then this should be easy. I think I was at my most prolific and productive when I was at university, and I was surrounded by other writerly people. For those not in a university environment though, what can you do?
Well, the first port of call is to check your local library. Many of them have reading and perhaps writing groups, and I don’t think many of them are too exclusionary. Also on that note, check your local bookshop. If they’re worth any salt, they will have a notice board, and you may find information about writing groups on them. If not, then why not start your own?
A Risky Proposition
Of course, you do also need to be cautious. I was part of a writing group once, and I was initially very enthusiastic about it. That enthusiasm waned somewhat when I discovered that there was very little constructive feedback on offer. I should clarify – though it may be obvious – there is a difference between receiving feedback saying ‘it’s good’ – which isn’t good feedback, and receiving feedback stating why a piece might be good. Just like writing itself, feedback is all about the detail.
And it works both ways of course. Even if you find just one or two people who you trust (and feel comfortable with) to get feedback from, it’s a good start. It also allows you the opportunity to give feedback on their writing. It’s a two way process.
But let’s be honest here, it’s not all about sharing and being supportive. Yes, that’s an element of it, but what you should also focus on is the fact that feeding back makes you a better writer. Yes it does. Because reading someone else’s work, and giving constructive feedback (without re-writing it for them) is a valuable skill, it makes you better at editing, which of course will make you better at redrafting your own work. Being able to analyse work by another person, and to pick out what works, and what doesn’t, will boost your skills in being able to identify what works and what doesn’t it your own writing.
Back to the Drafting Board. Again.
Inspired by Matt’s piece, and some extra information he gave me, I decided to go back to my long dormant project that I have (technically) finished. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a while, and have realised that I’m more than likely going to have to scrap the entire last quarter of the book. And that isn’t quite as painful as I had thought it would be.
But I started reading through it from the beginning again, and well, I’m going to have to make some changes. The last time I did a redraft on it, I opted to tone a lot of it down. But even re-reading it recently, I find the tone very inconsistent. The main character for a start is very cocky and full of himself. That worked in my original draft, but as I’ve expanded the back story and fleshed out the character motivations, I’ve realised that this is inappropriate for the situation he is in. This is a little more painful, because as opposed to chopping of the last part of the book like amputating a limb, I’m going to have to perform micro-surgery on small sections without damaging the surrounding text.
There I go torturing metaphors again.
Anyway folks, do you have people you can feedback to/from? As ever, leave any thoughts and musings about the feedback process in the comments below.