From Canada to Wales, the past few weeks have been pretty non stop for me, with my days filled from the breaking of the dawn to late at night. Finally though, my time in Wales draws to an end, and normality once again beckons me.
If you recall, I intended to use Canada as my key motivating factor in sending off my manuscript for some much needed feedback. After much deliberation, research, and second guessing, I ended up using the Writers Workshop, who paired my manuscript up with someone they deemed compatible with the story I was trying to tell, and the rest was just a waiting game. That is, only after departing with a sizeable amount of change, of course. Once I had committed the cash, galvanising my resolve in getting this book a) done, and b) in a shape presentable to potential publishers, all that was left to do was enjoy Canada and all the sights, sounds, tastes and vibes that Vancouver had to offer us – an adventure I’ve documented with my previous Vancouver blogs.
After the last day passed in Vancouver, I was a little concerned to see that no feedback had arrived in my inbox as of yet, and was aware that I wanted to share this part of the process with you here at Write Steve Write as openly as I could.
Deep in my heart I was naively hoping that, because it was so good, they wanted to shower it with deep praise, perhaps wanting to bring it to the attention the Writers Workshop in order to help push it into the awaiting hands of publishers.
Turns out it only takes 41 pages to highlight how broken my story is. A lot of areas that I had initially thought to be quite strong were not quite as solid as I had believed, with a lot of thematic ideas and concepts that I explored either lost or severely underdeveloped throughout the manuscript.
The most prevalent issue with my manuscript as a whole also happens to be one that is so apparent, and prevalent, to the point of embarrassment: tense.
Past tense, present tense, and its constant slipping between the two led to a jarring reading experience for my appointed reader, one that majorly contributed to his inability to fully engross himself into the story, ultimately ending in a stymied experience of the manuscript and the story. Truthfully, it’s shameful how deep my delusion was, regarding my grasp on tense, and its one that my appointed reader, Hal, didn’t hesitate to point out, sans sugar coat. And rightfully so.
There are a number of key issues that he felt were within the manuscript, from tense issues to an underdeveloped protagonist in Kenny, let alone his take away that the story could refocus completely on Gray.
I’ve always been okay with feedback. In my current job, the use of feedback is intrinsically connected with how we communicate with each other on a professional level; as long as it is constructive, it’s worth listening to, and that’s a belief I have adopted into how I conduct myself on a personal level.
The majority of this report was constructive, though it was clearly unafraid to rip into it unapologetically, at times close to the point of being personal. It toed the line accordingly, and was fittingly prefaced with a message that the one thing the feedback wasn’t is personal in any way, and why would it be? Up until the moment Hal was assigned I hadn’t heard of him, despite his immediately impressive credentials, with a long line of published novels, awards, and accolades highlighting his experience and success (thanks Google).
The feedback didn’t pull its punches, and it was a difficult task to go through the report without being emotionally gut punched with each swift dissection of my work, the labour of love I spent over a year+ of my life on being shred to pieces so effectively with razor like precision.
That’s not to say that I agree’d with everything Hal had to say, of course. Stories being stories they are always open to interpretation and opinion, all borne out of personal growth and influences. Something Hal didn’t like could be your favourite part of the book; a hint too subtle for some may feel like being pandered to for others, thus is the nature of story, regardless of the medium.
It’s a fact that I had to remind myself of whilst going through those 41 pages. This is one persons filtered opinion on my work, and that’s cool, because that’s his educated, informed opinion, and he’s obviously entitled to it, but that’s ultimately what it is: opinion.
I fully agree with the majority of points Hal made, especially on a technical level; conversely, there were a lot of opinionated arguments that I didn’t concur with. I still categorically believe Kenny is the protagonist of this story, and his tenuous relationship with Gray allows for the majority of the emotional heft and drama within the story as we watch their brotherhood evolve over time. Theirs is a story that will ultimately tie intrinsically together: without KO there is no Reaper; without Reaper there is no KO, that is the bond their brotherhood extends to when they commit to their cause.
It’s never easy putting yourself out there, no matter what your creative endeavour: writing, art, photography, film making, it’s all taking a huge chunk of your soul and committing it into a platform that allows others to observe, judge and critique. Despite my (limited) experience to film making, I’ve never had such a direct connection between myself and a piece of writing as I have with Temporary. I have poured elements of myself into this work, as most people do, and so feel immediately defensive regarding this, my baby.
This is natural, but it’s also counter productive.
The feedback (feedback I PAID for) exists to help me better my work. It is NOT personal, and it is not ripping it in an Internet Troll sense – tearing it apart as a nameless keyboard warrior, just because. The feedback is warranted, requested, and, in many cases, as justified as it is needed. Especially the fucking tense. Goddamn you tenses!
What I thought was a solid attempt at my first manuscript has turned out to be barely better than a first draft, despite my going over it before sending it through – obviously not thoroughly enough. What does all of this mean? As they say in Kevin Smith’s Clerks, it means its time to either shit or get off the pot. In other words: get to the nitty gritty of rewriting, or give up completely, and I’m not going to give up on what I truly believe to be a solid, fun, concept, with an idea that could appeal to a wide audience, that will make for an entertaining read.
So, writing comes down to what it usually always does: rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting.
Time to make some strong coffee and get back to it.
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