The completion of a novel, for the writer, is not ‘The End’ (play on words), it’s just the beginning…of a demanding cycle of rewrite/revise and endless editing. Many of the books and articles on writing will say, put it away, distance yourself, take the time so when you’re ready to start the revisions, you have a fresh outlook.
If you have trusted readers, this is the time to share, knowing full well that when you hand your manuscript to someone else to read, you’re asking for feedback, for suggestions to make the story better.
In the beginning, my readers were friends and family. The problem, most of these readers were not writers, and knew nothing of the writing process. They’re readers, and as such, know what they like, even if they don’t know why.
My first readers were my brother and his wife. As my brother was also a writer, he understood how fiction worked and gave me a lot of constructive feedback. His wife is an avid reader, with a sharp analytical mind. She gave me honest opinions of what worked, what didn’t, who she liked, and why.
My other readers at the time were friends, who were excellent at finding grammatical errors, misspellings, repeated words and such, but were terrible in giving plot and character feedback.
I say were, for as I’ve grown as a writer, they’ve grown as a reader, and I get more from them now than ‘It’s a nice story”.
My best reader, also an excellent editor, is an old friend, and fellow writer. We share excerpts back and forth, a sort of edit as you go kind of thing. As most of our sharing is done by E-mail, there’s an honesty in what we share that might not have been comfortable in a face to face discussion.
Sometimes I need to step back, from what might initially be taken as criticism, to give my emotions a chance to settle. I’m the first to admit that once I take the time and calmly think about what she had to say, I can see her point.
Her voice is in my head now as I write. I’m more aware of how I tend to change point of view in the middle of a scene, and how I need to break up long narratives with some dialogue.
A few times I’ve shied away from a difficult scene, and let the plot move forward in back story, instead of dialogue. She calls me on it every time. “You copped out” or “You missed an opportunity here” and I’ve gone back and done the rewrite. Sometimes I just needed a bit of distance, before the scene could be written. Distance and a kick in the ass.
Books ONE and TWO I never shared with anyone, other than friends and family. They were written and put away in the drawer. Now that I’ve pulled them out into the light, so to speak, my friend is giving me the benefit of her time and experience and I see some more editing in my future.
Book number THREE, was my murder story. I shared it with other writers in my writing group, and received some excellent feedback. I was told when a character’s behaviour didn’t seem realistic, and where I needed to beef up the action. This was Death by Drowning, and by the time I did the final revision, I was confident enough to self publish with Amazon, for Kindle.
I’ve made some sales, which is great, but more important…I finished a book, all the way from A to Z. From an idea, to a finished piece of writing that I can be proud of, and am confident enough to share with the reading public.
I’ve started too many projects, and left them unfinished.
Old manuscripts may be hidden away in a drawer, out of sight, but they are never out of mind. At least writing is easier to store, a simple flash drive will hold everything I’ve ever written and more.
I have too many canvases and framed works of art stored in the closet, taking up room and collecting dust. I’ve been at this so long, my friends and family have run out of available wall space.
What do you do with it all? It’s frustrating, this need to create, and having to deal with the ongoing accumulation of work.
And yet, as creative people, we have this need to have our work recognized, appreciated, and to feel that we’re growing as an artist, as a writer. We may be solitary in the completion of our work, but once it’s done, we need to share; the process, the struggles and the final triumph.
There’s an excitement in knowing that creation, whatever it may be, came from our hand, our imagination.
And isn’t that a hell of a thing?