Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Funny I Should Ask . . .

One of my faithful beta readers saw my post from yesterday and emailed me the following:

I am currently on CH 8. Before I continue reading I need to offer some feedback. I feel like I'm still waiting for the story to begin. In CH 5 when you tell Jarrod's story, you catch me and I feel engaged, but then I get kicked right back out when the narration starts back up later in the chapter.

It feels like much of this is backstory. I see the important plot pieces you are trying to incorporate, and how they will be essential later, but I don't know if narrating it is your best vehicle to do that. 

Having said that, it could just be that I'm not much for that style. I will continue to read and send feedback. But for now, my suggestion is to ditch the narration and go with action. Or start with a short, essential narration that kicks us into a backstory like Jarrod's and then pick back up in current time with more action. Weave that essential backstory information into the action rather than giving it to the reader in narration. 

I know how many times you have re-written this story. I hesitated to even give you this feedback. But I also wanted to be completely honest. It's a good story. Don't give up on it.

Reaction One: I’m so depressed. This book sucks far more than I ever imagined.

Reaction Two: Wait a minute. It’s not like I didn’t expect this. I know the first several chapters of this book are weak sauce and block the reader from getting to the action.

Reaction Three: Is this really an action book?

Reaction Four: Well, aren’t ALL books action books? I mean, not explosions and such, but something does tend to happen to characters in a book, right?

Reaction Five: I need to analyze this.

So this is what I came up with (this is only part of the book). A full PDF (still a work in progress) is here, but I think you get the gist. The most important part comes in Column D, where I analyze whether what’s in each individual chapter is advancing the plot or not.

There’s lots of red. That’s stuff that’s slowing the book down. And orange and yellow ain’t necessarily good either.

Sage green and true green are better – I’m heartened to see the portions of the book I’ve always liked are in this area. Though there are parts I like in the danger zone as well.

(You might ask, didn’t I just break one of my DO NOT DO’s from yesterday’s post? Yeah, a little. But a quick analysis of what my beta reader said and what I’d already been thinking in my head is going to help the process along, so forgive me.)

So I ask myself: Is the book bad?

No. It still needs more thought and editing, that’s all. Maybe some deft rearranging of parts will salvage little bits. Cutting will certainly help – as will adding. But this is what beta reading is supposed to do: Help the author see the flaws. And any author who respects his or her beta readers will take what they say at face value and believe it. And then act on it.

To my beta readers: This is what Doleful Creatures needs. Honesty. A critical look. Because I want this to be a good book, not just a book I think is good.

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