Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Integrating Feedback Into Your Writing With Guest Author Alayna Williams
by Alayna Williams
Writing for oneself is a completely different animal than writing for other people. When writing for oneself, there's a freedom to explore any idea or format that one likes. There's freedom to make errors. With an audience of one, there's very little pressure to conform to the ideas of others. There are no rules.
Writing for others is different. When developing an idea or manuscript for sale, there's a certain amount of external input needed. Input comes in many forms: from beta readers, critique groups, agents, and editors. External input is invaluable: as a writer, I'm often blind to flaws and blatant errors in my own work. I can read the same sentence over and over and not see a mistake in logic that another will readily see. I think that it's really impossible to produce clean work in a vacuum. At least, that's true for me.
But too much feedback can also be a bad thing. Each reader approaches a manuscript differently, has different tastes and desires. One reader may adore a chapter while the next may hate it. And if I've solicited feedback from many sources, that feedback can sometimes conflict. I feel that I have to address *every* issue raised...even when there is no way to incorporate everyone's opinion. I can sometimes fall into analysis paralysis, and never find my way out of the revision forest. Too many cooks can spoil the broth.
I think that there's a balance between using our internal compasses and soliciting external feedback. To be certain, some feedback is vital and necessary. It produces a more sound work. And some of it - particularly editorial suggestions - are not optional.
But there must be limits. Writers must remember that not every book is for every reader. And creating a work that encompasses all possible feedback is frankly impossible. Overcritting a manuscript can sometimes be harmful...a writer can lose track of the original inspiration. Being in a state of constant revision can result in disjointed, disconnected parts. The flow can get lost. When I read manuscripts for others, I can often tell when plot threads were snipped and moved around over and over, because threads are dangling.
Sometimes, it's helpful for me just to set a manuscript aside for awhile. Let it percolate. Read it some months later with a fresh eye. Sometimes, the project will not see the light of day. I take what I've learned and move on. Sometimes, I'll go forward with the project after time has passed.
And I think that it's also helpful to develop a small network of folks who are able to act as crit partners. People who will be honest, who understand my genre. Folks who aren't afraid to scribble in the margins: "What the hell is this platypus doing here? And when did he learn to play the kazoo?"
I think that's valuable. I gather three or four sets of feedback, with the sources depending upon the project. With three or four recipes, I have a pretty good idea of how to improve my chicken soup. I still feel as if I have control of the project, and that the book isn't being written by committee.
With any artistic endeavor, you can't please everyone. And that's also true for writing groups and critique partners. The trick, I think, is to be able to filter feedback and integrate it into a work without losing track of what you set out to do.
Cheeky Readers - how many of you also write? Do you find yourself having trouble keeping a balance between using input and opinion overload? If you don't write, have you ever sent an author your opinion on thier book or wanted to tell them what you wished they'd done differently?
Check out Alayna's latest release:
Delphic Oracle #2
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
"Alayna Williams writes with power and poetry, combining old mythos with complete ass-kickery. You don’t want to miss this series.” -National bestselling author Ann Aguirre
The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.
Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around - and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn't need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.
Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards - and Tara's increasingly ominous dreams - suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi's Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…