Organising Feedback

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I’ve had a few rounds of feedback on Vengeance Will Come and have been mostly diligent in filing responses in a sub folder of the project as soon as I receive it. (If your inbox is anything like mine, things get lost in there like a grain of dirt swept up in a mudslide).

Sadly, that’s about where the organisation of feedback ended. (In my partial defence, I intentionally wasn’t processing the feedback straight away: I wanted a balance of opinions and some time to pass).

Here is what I’m going to do now, and in the future, before starting the revision process.

Compiling the Feedback

Create a Feedback Compilation document, which has the same structure (chapters and scenes etc) as the novel.

Go through each (feedback) document/email:

  • Where it’s a typo, grammar or obvious error (e.g. wrong character name), fix it in the manuscript immediately.
  • Where the feedback is incontestably wrong, ignore it. (If there is any doubt, don’t ignore it).
  • Where the feedback relates to a given chapter/scene place it in that location in the document. If it’s thematic feedback or has broader application than a single section I’ll add it to the top of the document.

    I’ll add three-letter initials of the reviewer in brackets at the end of the comment, just in case I want to know who provided it. Some reviewers opinions should hold more weight than others and it’s always helpful to be able to later clarify comments.

Colour Coding

  • If the tone of the comment is positive, change the font colour to something less stand-out than black. I’m leaving it in the document so I don’t accidentally “edit out” the bits people like. And, inevitably, there’ll be days when I need a motivational boost.
  • Where I disagree with the feedback I’ll add a comment in brackets as to why, and colour the font a grey. (It’s still there, but less important).
  • Where I agree with the comment (or enough reviewers pick up on the same issue) and it’s a major problem, apply bold and red font.

Summarising

  • Once I’ve added all the feedback from all reviews, I’ll group my related dot points (to see the weight of opinions). This might result in grey text I disagree with becoming black text. I might also paraphrase a collection of dot points down into a concise problem statement.
  • If reviewers disagree with each other then I’ll either side with one, or put both opinions in a table with two columns (pros and cons).

After all this work I should have a single document to use as a reference when editing each section of the novel.

If you write, what are your strategies for managing feedback?

Beta Readers!

girl-hugging-teddy

That’s how I feel about beta readers right now. They are a wonderful breed of people.

Today I received some surprise feedback on Vengeance Will Come from a beta reader. I’d assumed I wasn’t going to be getting a response, but the email had been left and forgotten in their “draft” folder. Needless to say; every beta reader’s comments are precious, so I feel like I’ve just found a $100 note on the pavement.

It also doesn’t hurt my mood that their comments were largely positive. I can’t begin to express how that spurs me on to continue writing – both to finish this project and others.

You mean I haven’t wasted hundreds of hours writing? You mean you’d willingly pay money for it and be happy you did at the end? Music to my ears.

Of course not every beta reader is so complimentary, and I do genuinely also appreciate the constructive criticism. I know some of my beta readers have picked up on weaknesses – because I had those same doubts. What’s even better is when they detect a problem which I hadn’t seen without their perspective.

 

I’m still looking for a few more readers for up to five chapters of my novel. More details on the previous post.

Lab Rats Sought for Experiment

And by “Lab Rats” I mean generous, heroic, courageous individuals (of course). If that sounds like you, or embodies characteristics that you aspire to, read on…

I’m looking for approximately 10 helpful people who are willing to read up to the first 5 chapters of Vengeance Will Come, my first novel. 

All I’m looking for is an answer to 1-3 simple questions:

  • 1) “Did you make it?” Under normal circumstances (i.e. you just picked this book up of a shelf) would you continue reading, or did you put the book down in boredom before reaching the end of the 5th chapter?
  • If you didn’t make it to the end:
    • 2a) Where did you stop?
    • 2b) Any particular reason why?

Easy, right?

Ideally I’m looking for people who enjoy reading (adult level). In terms of genre, it’s a ‘light’ fantasy/scifi adventure. (* Previous beta readers exempted; I need fresh blood, and, hopefully, a consensus).

At an average reading pace I can tell that will be approximately 30 minute reading time. You could help me realise my dreams in spending a morning commute reading. I’d be very appreciative, especially if you’re willing to answer any follow up questions I might have (not required).

If you’re interested please contact me on [my-first-name].[my-last-name]@internode.on.net (after replacing the bracketed bits), or post a comment below with your contact details.

Naturally I’d request that you don’t send it onto anyone else. (Under Australian law the mere fact I wrote it makes it copyrighted, which is nice).

I’ll fire back an email, and then all you need is a cup of tea or coffee and somewhere comfy to sit…

The Value of an Editor

One of my key alpha readers is author Shari Risoff who is also an internet buddy. Because of our friendship, and the writers’ need for ongoing encouragement, she gets the privilege and/or horror of seeing my tentative drafts. In one of my first scenes she picked up on something, highlighting a single word to draw it to my attention:

The meeting place had been chosen carefully: an abandoned rat-infested industrial area. There were a warren of access lanes but only one main road in and out, both ends now blocked by police.

I couldn’t see the problem; to me it was correct as far as I knew, but she noted that were is plural while warren is singular.

Definition of warren:

  1. network of interconnecting rabbit burrows.
  2. a densely populated or labyrinthine building or district.

Given that the first definition of warren refers to multiples itself, I still wasn’t entirely sure. So I asked friend, award winning poet, master wordsmith and quintessential nice-guy, Thom Sullivan. He not only confirmed the error Shari had spotted but also tinkered skilfully.

The meeting place had been carefully chosen: an abandoned rat-infested industrial area. It was a warren of access lanes with only one main road in and out – and both ends now blocked by police.

As he explained most graciously,

With “chosen carefully” the reader “sees” the action (the choosing) then has to impute back the quality of it being done with care. By reversing it, the adverb tells them in advance to “see” whatever action comes next as being done with care – so the reader sees the whole image immediately.

It was interesting for me, (a complete non-poet) to see how a poet is so exacting and  precise in word choice and placement. It definitely enhances the writing, but is something that would be near-impossible on a novel length piece of text.

The best I can hope for is to be mindful of these things in the future. I am most grateful to both Shari and Thom for their help.

The Rebel Queen

It started when I was writing my first novel Vengeance Will Come (Galactic Darkness series, book 1) and realised that I was introducing a BIG sub plot and a whole clown-car full of new characters half way through the story.Which is less than clever for a cohesive story.

So I cut out the juicy plot, planning to make it a novelette of around 17,500 words. I began working on this novelette in October 2015. The Rebel Queen is not book 2 of the series, but a bonus-story that runs slightly parallel to book 1 and 2, as shown in this graphic.

Timelines

I started with about 10,000 words of material and thought I could knock the project off in a couple of months. Ha! Evidently I am still learning to gauge time-and-writing- reality properly.

Two busy-writing months after my internal deadline, I am pleased to announce that I have sent The Rebel Queen out to my earliest alpha readers. Far from being a novelette, at nearly 64,000 words it is what I would call a short novel. It is an other-planet based story of empire-building, struggle and strife.

Back in October I used this as the blurb-descriptor:

There are rumours of a rebel faction hiding somewhere within the Deckarian colony. Such a presence threatens the unity of the colony and the Queen’s own ruling interest. The rebels must be swiftly crushed to remove all thoughts of a new Queen…

The rebel is young, inexperienced and has radical and controversial plans for the colony. She wants minimal bloodshed in the transition, but will her idealism prove fatal?

An unexpected human provocation will be the catalyst that puts the opposing forces onto a collision course. They will both learn that victory isn’t always what you expect.

I also like the below version, though it doesn’t describe the factions as well. Which do you like?

The hermaphrodite Deckarian Sue-Le sat in the bowels of the colony complex. The small antennae on her head that revealed her to be a genetic Queen were tied down and covered with a grey scarf. The small group sat in a corner of laundry facility 57, mending the pile of clothes beside them.Surrounded by vast boiling pots of filthy linen and kilometres of drying lines they plotted the overthrow of the colony.

I’m looking for beta readers if you’re interested, please let me know.

Writing Update: The Rebel Queen and Vengeance Will Come

I’m about three chapters away from finishing the first draft of my novelette The Rebel Queen. The end is in sight, but I need a break from it for a day or two because I’m starting to go stir crazy. The story is longer than originally intended (about 50,000 words) and has taken much longer than I thought it would to complete. It is the alpha draft and I know there are aspects of the story development that I am unhappy with. (At least I’ve been more disciplined and have continued on to try and finish it, not go back and endlessly re-write).

I can’t yet gauge if it is a diamond in the rough or nothing more than an “average” story. On one of the writing excuses podcasts they talk about how you will have more ideas than you have time to write, but that part of being a successful writer is being able to pick the quality ideas from among the chaff. I don’t think I’ve mastered selecting the best target yet.

My experience to-date is that I am not good at switching quickly between writing and editing. Writing is the creative process, where I am largely just brain-dumping – feeling the story and going with it. Editing is more structured, more critical and often at arms-length from the creative. After a good stint of editing, it takes me a chunk of time to stop looking at a piece of work like an editor.

Today I will start what I intend on being my final revision of Vengeance Will Come; at least before some form of publication. I am really going to be working on tightening up the prose and incorporating the feedback from my dear alpha readers.

Trial Readers Sought for Vengeance Will Come

I’ve just finished revising the ending of Vengeance Will Come my first novel-length story.

So now I am looking for a few readers who would be kind enough to give me their written constructive criticism.

The Story

It’s a light-fantasy, set among the stars at a future time.

I’m just starting to write my blurb, but here’s a first cut:

Regent Danyel Abudra is unaware of the danger that lurks at his doorstep, or the lengths to which an old enemy will go to get revenge. He’s about to find out that it’s going to be worse than he could ever imagine, and survival is going to take everything he has…

Regent Menas Senay wants revenge at any cost and is willing to accept any offer of help to achieve it, even if that means aligning himself with a shadowy cult…

Both men will soon find out that vengeance has a cost that they must continue to pay…

It is about 476 pages long and 116k words.

What feedback am I after?

The kind of feedback that I am looking for is for your honest responses to the below kind of questions. The more feedback, the better…

Plot

  • What did you enjoy (or not enjoy) about the story?
  • Were there points in the story where you wanted to stop reading, or just had-to-read-one-more-chapter?
  • Were you bored or confused at any points?
  • Was the ending satisfying?
  • Would you be interested in reading the rest of the series?
  • What was the worst / best part of the story, if you had to pick?
  • Would you recommend this story to a friend? Why or why not?

Characters

  • Are the characters’ reactions to what is happening believable to you?
  • How do you feel about the characters? What emotions do they evoke? (love, hate, frustrated, curious).
  • Could you picture the characters in your mind?
  • Do you understand the relationships between the characters?

Setting

  • Could you “see” the setting where the action was taking place?

Style

  • Were there points where you feel I stuffed something up?
  • Any points where my word-choice was distracting?

I am less interested in (but would still gratefully accept) grammar or typing errors, especially if it’s a mistake that I am making repeatedly which is jarring to the reader. Normally as a reader you can’t both do this sentence-level checking and enjoy the story… I’d rather have perspectives on the story as a whole than the nitty-gritty.

I’d be hoping to have the feedback in approximately a month’s time (early-mid November) if possible.

Yep, I’m up for it

Excellent. Just leave a comment below and I’ll be in contact with you.

However, I’m after a range of readers so please let me know:

  1. Your age / gender
  2. How many fiction books would you read in an average year?
  3. Do you normally read fantasy / sci-fi books?
  4. Do you have any experience in writing / editing / publishing?

I’d really appreciate your help, thanks!