Take it like a man

OK, I’m getting the feedback.

I sent out copies of my latest book – The Secret Place – to a number of readers in order to get feedback. That feedback is beginning to come in, together with thoughts and comments from people who weren’t on the list but who have read it anyway.

It’s grit your teeth time. All the advice is to give your manuscript to people who a) read a lot; and b) read in the genre which you’re writing in. That has largely been true of the people to whom I’ve sent the book, but not exclusively. A couple of them don’t read private eye or thriller novels. However, each and every one of them does read extensively, so that’s a bonus.

So my book is the second in the series of thrillers about my PI, Sam Dyke. Most of the beta-readers have read the first book too, which is an advantage. The consensus seems to be that The Secret Place is better than Altered Life, which can only be good. It’s allegedly more pacy and more gripping.

Which doesn’t mean it’s perfect, of course. Criticisms have included, ‘It starts really well but then doesn’t fulfil its promise’; ‘there are inconsistencies in the plot-line’; and ‘It’s obvious you’ve never been to some of the places you write about … ‘.

All of these are true, to a greater or lesser degree. So the fascinating thing is, how do you respond to them? Some people, I know, have the response of, ‘Oh my god, you’re absolutely right, how could I have been so stupid not to have seen that? I should shoot myself right now … ‘ While others shrug their shoulders, say ‘Meh,’ and get on making the corrections.

I’m kind of in the middle. Despite planning to the nth degree, there are still inconsistencies … how could that be? I thought everything through, didn’t I? All the implications of every action of every character. But still character A says this on page 10 and this – completely contradictory thing – on page 20. Doh! This happens when you make things up on the spot. It seems natural and almost ‘inevitable’ at the point at which you write it. But you conveniently forget that you said the opposite thing only 10 pages previously. Because those 10 pages might have been written 5 days apart … so why would you remember something that was created spontaneously, just in order to add ‘depth’ to a given character?

The harder things to cope with are where your readers tell you that the pace slackens, or a scene was unnecessary, or a scene that was actually essential doesn’t appear to have been written … this means more serious re-writing. Not just re-wording, but actually adding scenes and maybe even characters. So more research! More creativity! Just when you thought you’d done the hard stuff, you have to do more of it.

In the end, I guess what you have to do is consider that you’re trying to make the book be the best book it can be. Yes, it’s tedious and hard work to alter and re-write extensive portions of the book. But if you don’t, you’ll always have those voices playing in your head: ‘It could have been fixed. It could have been better.’

And that’s a lot, lot worse, than the trivial pain of rewriting.

Keith Dixon
Altered Life


Filed under Blogroll, Fiction, The Book's Den Newsletter, The Writing Life, Writing

2 responses to “Take it like a man

  1. suppose

    Keith, I write fiction and really like PI mysteries. When I was kid I read Chandler and others. Loved them.

    I recently published Deadly Delusion, a book about the JFK Assassination in the fictional voice of Lee Oswald. I have excerpts every week on suppose.wordpress.com. I welcome feedback.

    Good luck to you . . .

  2. arstpierre

    Your problems bring to mind the infamous proverb ‘The devil’s in the details’

    I myself am just entering the world of publishing, and I fully expect to have my work broken down in glaring inconsistencies and omissions before my very eyes. It’s a trial by fire that I presume every author must endure, and whether we all come out of it intact or not is left to each to say for themselves.

    But like a flawed marble statue, the imperfections will be smoothed over in the end. You probably aren’t the one who needs this advice, but stick with it and all should come out good in the end.

    Where could one get their hands on a copy of Altered Life?

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