Monday, August 17, 2009

Too much feedback spoils the novel

With a short hiatus ahead of me, I am psyching myself up to start writing again. I did a *little* while on vacation, but not very much. I was too busy spending time with my long-lost family in Ohio.

Having had some time to reflect (between early morning Scrabble, trips to the zoo, fishing and walking the dog and boys in the park), I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons I was able to stop completely for a while is the level of confusion that has resulted from too much feedback.

I'm more eager for feedback than most writers. I really want to know what people think before I spend more precious months of my life working on something. The problem is that other writers have totally different opinions from mere readers. The other writers who have looked at my stuff say, "There is way too much exposition here, you have to take this out as it slows the whole thing down."

The readers say, "This is happening way too fast! Who are these people? Where are they? Why are they doing these things anyway?"

From all the writing blogs I've looked at, it seems that the only writing style allowable these days is basically stream of consciousness. Or, rather, stream of action. Everything has to happen pretty much in the moment to hold an editor's attention. The number one rule is "Show, don't tell."

But when I read books that have been published by very successful writers... oops! They use a ton of exposition in their first chapters. I just read one by bestselling romance author Nora Roberts in which the entire first chapter was basically backstory. I enjoyed it. I kept reading. It didn't slow me down. But apparently, if I were to submit a similar first chapter, I'd be given the good old "form rejection."

None of it makes sense.

So I have decided "To heck with them all!" I'm just going to write the story the best I can and if no one wants to publish it, I'll just self-pub and move on with my life. Grandma's not getting any younger... she just celebrated her 98th birthday. I need to finish this and record it so she can listen to it. She can't read any more, but listens to audio books all the time and is waiting for mine.

I owe it to Grandma.


SMEANJ said...

Go for it!! :-)

bunnygirl said...

There's a world of difference between what you can get published when you're a bestselling author, versus what you can convince an agent to so much as look at when you're an unknown.

That said, I think one is better off writing the novel however it needs to be written and worrying about current style conventions. Your story will change in the months you spend editing, so there's not much point worrying about what you write today.

If you write and edit to the best of your ability and can't get an offer, self-pub and go write another one. Literary fashions in both style and genre come and go, your writing can be rock-solid and you still might not get a corporate offer.

I'm a big believer in writing for the love of it and making all other outcomes secondary. When you consider that the average waiter or secretary earns more than the typical published fiction writer, you have to wonder why anyone would write for any other reason than ars gratia artis. So write what moves you and makes your day a little happier. You can always edit to the current stylistic fashion later, if you want to.

Christine H said...

Ann, I think the real issue of "published" vs. "not" is that one tends not to be taken seriously by one's peers, if not writing with publication in mind. Most of the discussion between "serious" writers seems to revolve around topics like those on agent Nathan Bransford's blog.

So, by extension, it is hard to take myself seriously if I'm not thinking towards eventual publication and guiding the manuscript that way. And, I must say, that all this feedback and analysis has vastly improved my writing.

But you are absolutely right that one has to do it for the love of the craft or it's not worth doing. You clearly love what you are doing! And so do the rest of us. I really can't help feeling that Kalila, Nevin, Ricky, et al are all real people.

Except Bo. I mean, who can possibly think about sex that much except an incubus?

Christine H said...

Hi Marci!!!! :)

bunnygirl said...

Christine, you're right about peer opinion. I've been been dissed and and belittled so often that I rarely speak my mind on writing any more. It's not worth it. As soon as I point out that we should write first for the enjoyment of it, all logic goes out of other writers' minds and they fail to read on to where I say that it's great for publication to be a secondary or tertiary goal; it just shouldn't be first. At least that's my opinion and my experience. Other people feel otherwise, and that's great, except when they don't respect the fact that we all have different writing goals and those goals are equally valid.

For me, getting a publishing deal ended up being like finding my husband: when I quit worrying about controlling the outcome and set out to enjoy the journey, the outcome came naturally and much sooner than I would've thought.

You've got terrific characters and your writing is solid, so enjoy your characters' story and have fun living it with them. If you get published, great. If not, you'll have had a fine time, anyway. We all need to escape the real world now and then.

And yeah, Bo is weird. His main role is comic relief.

Christine H said...

Thank you for the compliments, Ann. I think I'm blushing now.

Michelle Gregory said...

here here. i've struggled with being taken seriously (as you know) and i've come to the conclusion that i really don't care. and yet, because i've self-pubbed, i've had the opportunity to speak to other women and teens who don't think they have the time to write. i even have "normally published" writers listening to me. i'll encourage those God puts in my path. and i'll help raise the bar on self-publishing so that one day, we *will* be taken seriously.