Taking feedback is never fun

Drawing of a storm trooper with a gunA long time ago in a galaxy called the Milky Way, a young teenager decided to write a book.

What he really wanted to be was Luke Skywalker, but that didn’t seem any more likely than being Superman or Peter Pan, the runners-up. He probably wasn’t even cut out to be a stormtrooper.

But when it came to writing, he loved reading.

As cause-and-effects go, that meant he didn’t have a clue what he was doing when it came to crafting stories, and so it didn’t progress particularly well.

Furthermore, it wasn’t long before dating, partying, marriage and kids became more important than being a hero with mystical powers.

Yet the dream remained and he eventually got his act together, learned a lot about writing, finished the novel, and got it agented and picked up by a publisher.

Despite apparent success, this only resulted in more delays when the publisher collapsed.

And so self-publishing whispered, calling him to the Dark Side. He crossed over, printed a few copies and gave them to proofreaders (who weren’t writers).

The plan was a simple ‘once over’ before publication. The book had been through enough critiques and edits.

And after all, it had been good enough to get an agent and publisher, right?

And that’s when ‘first novel syndrome’ reared it’s ugly red pen once more. 

***

A cartoon of a scared face with hands.Prophecy of Power: Prey was the first book I wrote, and as a consequence it had a lot of problems. I probably should have abandoned it years ago, but I was too emotionally invested in it to give up.

I now consider it my ‘teaching myself to write’ book, and so it was always going to be problematic.

Through trial and error, learning and feedback, I fixed most of the problems, but despite numerous edits and rewrites, the protagonist still wasn’t working properly – and that’s my fault.

Agents, editors and other writers aren’t necessarily the best judge of this – sometimes it takes a reader to tell you they hope your protagonist dies a sticky death, alone and unloved.

As writers, we have blind spots we don’t want to face. My protagonist was mine. I’d resisted earlier feedback on her, making only minor tweaks when I should have gone back and done a total rethink.

I’m thinking of Grasshopper parables at the moment…

As a writer, readers can’t be allowed to hate a protagonist (or any character) so much they don’t want to finish the story: they won’t tell their friends to buy it, they won’t leave positive reviews, and they won’t buy the sequels.

That equals failure if you want to sell copies.

And so I’ll do another pass and hopefully make the protagonist more likeable right from the start. It’ll be the ‘final’ final pass.

Definitely.

Hopefully?

Who said this writing gig was all fun and muses…?

4 thoughts on “Taking feedback is never fun

  1. Well explained, Chris, and a hard lesson. I must stop ignoring negative reviews. But then a voice inside me says ‘If you want writing to be fun all the time, self-delusion is the way to go, why stop now?’ 😀

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