My book is currently on its second revision and out with volunteer readers for feedback. The plan was to do a third revision, then a proofread and finally…well, that depended on what my readers said.
I’m realistic about this. I am not an author. This is the first book I’ve written and I don’t really know if I am any good at. I am bad at self-criticism and the plan always was to make a decision on how much effort to put into publishing once I knew whether people liked it.
Problem is, that feedback isn’t coming.
Now it will. It’s not been in the wild for that long but the lack of early responses has been surprising. I was always concerned the initial few chapters weren’t strong enough and I am now confident this is a problem. I suspect once my readers get a few chapters in they are likely to keep going but my belief is that a weak first few chapters are slowing that adoption.
I was able to get some solid feedback from a reading group I am a member of. I have had a small amount of feedback prior to this and while appreciated, the feedback provided by the writing group was rawer. I understood there was too much exposition but I didn’t realise how much of a problem it was. I understood I introduced too many ideas, but again, I didn’t realise how much it was hurting my writing.
I’m inserting a new step as a result, an additional draft that will involve going through and trying to deal with these mistakes. My plan is to focus on the following areas.
- Remove Exposition
- Delay information until it’s actually needed
- Reduce Adverbs
- Reduce ‘said’ synonyms
- Fix speech grammar
The speech grammar is an interesting one. I genuinely thought “ could act as a sentence ender. I.e. if you wrote
“Hey” she said “What are you doing”
This would actually be valid but instead it should be
“Hey,” she said “What are you doing.”
I don’t know how I got this far without realising this. I genuinely didn’t know and so this issue persists through the book.
I still plan to do a revision based on reader feedback. I do expect to get feedback, I just think the weak start is slowing it down. The first three chapters are currently posted on this blog but at some point I will be replacing them with a third revision. I’ve already rewritten the first chapter and the cuts were savage, almost 800 words were cut. Is it better? I hope so, but we are back to that same problem, feedback.
The first few chapters need to be good. The nature of the story makes it difficult to start on an exciting scene (Though I am considering a prologue) and thus to draw people in, the start must be tight. I cannot keep rewriting and asking people to reread it, especially since I am having trouble getting people to read the first version.
I think my writing group can help with this. I am doing my best to read other people’s work despite my limited time so that I can request help in return. So far this has worked okay and it is how I managed to get the feedback I needed. There is also the potential of paying people to read it but I’m not wealthy. I could only consider doing that if I knew that investment would give it a good chance of commercial success and to know that I need, yup, feedback. It’s a catch 22 and something that has been genuinely causing me a lot of stress.
Fortunately, the feedback from my writing group has reduced that stress somewhat. I feel like I have some idea of what I need to do. I know if I can fix some of the issues I mentioned I can make it better, but I still don’t know how good it will be in the end.
I may post the revised Chapter 1 here at some point but there are not too many people watching just now. Certainly when I get the first 3 completed I will replace the preview copy in the sidebar. It’s a stressful time but I mean to see it through. I fully intend to finish what I started.