UPDATE: more valuable feedback has been received, helping further with the story.
In some recent reviews I have let rip on the need for and value of having extra eyes reviewing your work. And I have a short example of how beneficial that can be.
Very recently I dashed off a short story for a market that seemed ideal for my sometimes warped sensibilities but was closing quite soon. I brainstormed several ideas before picking the one that I thought I could do something with in this short time frame. I was reasonably pleased with the first draft but put the call out to some writerly friends begging a favour of people to have a look and give me some feedback. A number of them were quite happy to do so.
The first of that feedback is in. Apart from overall liking it, they had some really good feedback for things that could improve the impact of the story and its narrative, as well helping better set up the punchline (it was horror with comedic additions).
As the original creator, I had a vision of what I wanted the story to be and I drafted it as such. But all authors are close to what they have written. That often makes them the worst person to be evaluating their work. Hence that value of independent eyes. Professional editors aren’t cheap so unless you have plenty of money to burn, it is probably better not to head in that direction unless you have an advanced draft of a large body of work. But for reviewing short pieces and looking at a work-in-progress, other writers can be a great resource.
Pretty much most places in the English-speaking world have writers groups of various sorts. A quick Internet search can put you in touch with places like writers’ centres. Or another search can reveal online communities. One that I was previously active in was Critters. I received good/useful comments on stories I posted. But there was an added benefit. Getting that sort of commentary is a two-way street. You are expected to provide comments on the work of other people as well. And not having that attachment to the work, you can see the sort of things in the work of other people that you might not pick up in your own. At the same time, it raises your own active awareness of such things. That can actually improve your own writing.
If you are trying to sell your work to markets like anthologies or magazines, it needs to be spot on, as good as you can possibly get. You generally only get the one chance to impress an editor with a piece of work and are competing against other writers. The bigger and better the market, the more competition you need to beat. When it comes to sending manuscripts to traditional publishers, or agents for that matter, you don’t have long to impress them. Unless they are sufficiently impressed pretty much from the outset, you don’t have much chance of them reading it all the way through, let alone get a publishing or agency contract.
With self-publishing, in some respects that reviewing of your work before going ‘to press’ is even more important. In traditional style markets, there is an editing process for all authors. Even the likes of Stephen King doesn’t get to hand in a manuscript to have it published as is. And if you read his acknowledgements, you will see that he credits the help of editors in further shaping things. But as an indie, you need to find that review aspect for yourself. And as I like to say, that doesn’t mean having Mummy having a read or a buddy look at it and who is just going to say ‘good one, dude.’ You need to be prepared to put that work out there for others to review it, critique it, give feedback, find the problems and errors that you have overlooked. Most importantly, they can help you appreciate if it is working or not.
No matter how good your marketing program, if your basic product isn’t that good then it isn’t going to sell. Ditto with poorly constructed sentences, errors and so forth. I recommend people follow Rachel Thompson at Bad Readhead Media. Rachel shares all sorts of great stuff for free on her blog as well as providing great professional services to people. And as an award-winning author in her own right as well as an experienced book marketing professional < and a condom sales star in a past life 🙂 > Rachel also pushes the same barrow – the need for editing and review of your work to make it a saleable product.
So, resist that flush of excitement at having ‘finished’ your story and the temptation to start rushing it out to markets. Any experienced writer will tell you that the real work starts after you have ‘finished’ – that is when the editing and review begin.
Now I shall get back down from my soapbox and resume watching the world go by as I sip coffee in this nice coffee shop. So over to you – any thoughts on the subject?
Ross does not bite…a lot. Feel free to make a comment. And don’t be afraid to follow Words by Ross.