Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hiatus continued

I have deeply enjoyed my month of break from my novel. Indulging in self-loathing-free video game time has been a blessing. I’ve forgotten what my novel is even about while at the same time seeing, at a distance, some of its weaknesses and realizing some ways to make it better. Also, I’ve had the beginnings of an entirely new and different idea percolating in my head, which is pretty huge for me, considering.

We had our writers’ group meetup on Sunday. Branden had finished his draft and posted it all in enough time that everyone had read it for the meetup, so it was “the one” for both of us: the meetup that would prove most helpful because the beta readers have finally seen the whole picture and can review based on that. I really, really need to get better about writing down questions in advance for my group, because I always think some up and then forget what they were by the time group rolls around.

In lieu of my own questions that I thought up, I sent out a link to a list of “fifteen questions to ask your beta readers.” It’s better than nothing, but a lot of them were sorta iffy considering that my girls have been reading this draft since January and the beginning is probably a bit hazy at this point. Still, I sent it out and hopefully a couple of them will be able to get back to me with some answers. I also know that at least Rachel is planning on rereading it and giving comprehensive feedback, a service for which I really, really should be paying her, and am intellectually and spiritually indebted to her for insisting on providing it for free. (The same goes for anyone else who would do that for me. Thank you, in advance, so very very much.)

Which brings me to the fraught topic of feedback. I love feedback. Can’t get enough of it. In particular, I love critical feedback; meaning that I really like it when people can tell me what things they didn’t like or that didn’t work for them. That’s because, I know that my book isn’t perfect, that it’s very far from perfect. I’m trying to train myself out of the habit of poisoning the well before a meetup and saying “I’m aware I could be worldbuilding more” because that tells people that they don’t need to mention it—even if they were going to. I want to hear them tell me this, because if I tell them in advance, then I can’t know if it’s something they would have mentioned. And without people telling me what didn’t work for them, I don’t know where to start. Is that thing that really irks me something that my readers really enjoy? Or vice-versa? I have a very hard time working with “everything was great, I loved all of it!” at this stage, when I know it’s not finished.

Happily for me, I did get a fair amount of critical feedback. Not as much as I would have if everyone had read it all of-a-piece before the meetup like they did with Cassidy0, but definitely a starting place.

Thematically similar: I think that it is a reflex, when one finishes a creative work, to immediately believe that it is terrible. I don’t think it’s something you can control. You’ve been spending a massive amount of time and internal energy on a thing, and suddenly it’s gone—it’s almost like you’ve broken up with someone. Things rush in to fill that gap. There’s emotional backlash. It’s normal. It’s also very important to realize that it’s a physical reaction, not a truth. You will probably never believe that your work is as good as it could be; as good as it looked on the shelf of your brain. Your readers never saw it in its original packaging. They will never know how far short you fell. They will also never look as closely at it as you have. Don’t make their minds up for them in advance. Can you imagine how bleak the world would be if a story was only told when the writer was 100% satisfied with it? Beowulf wouldn’t exist.

You will probably be able to read your book with a glow of pride some years after you’ve pushed it out of the nest. You’ll like the nicks and dents. In the end, that’s part of what makes it what it is. But even if you hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, you should still push it out of the nest. Someone will love it.

Next Monday, I will be dusting off Cassidy1: rereading, making notes, etc. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to start making changes. I’ve never gotten to a real second draft before. I’m nervous. Wish me luck!

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