Musing: Feedback and Progress

April has come and gone, so I’ll be returning back to a more natural writing schedule.   As I’ve mentioned before I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, with an aim on cleaning up the first half of Two Destroyers.

This leads me to a subject many people face when they make their first long piece.  They obsess so much about the first few chapters they never make progress on the piece as a whole.  Showing people your chapter one only does so much.

If you write out an entire story you can better understand why the story starts the way it does.  From there the most important component to a successful tale is honesty.  Some people are good at coming to terms with themselves.  They can look at something they write and identify boring parts.  The rest of us tend to blind ourselves with emotional attachment to the tale.

The more prone you are to falling in love with your work, the harder it is to be honest with yourself.  Loving something is fine, but making it great means identifying exactly what makes it wonderful.

So, with that honesty, some humility allows the author to change “This scene is great because…”  to “This scene is trying to do this by…”

You will never get the chance to explain why a scene is great to a reader, but it is rather easy to see if a scene elicits a desired reaction from feedback.

Good writing inspires questions and answers them seamlessly.  This establishes a sort of ‘emotional control’ to lure people into reading.  This is the nature of the hook.

If a reader is invested enough to want to know the answers to the mysteries you present, it makes it difficult to put your book down.

That’s the sort of thing I focus on with revisions.   What kind of questions am I answering, and did I inspire the reader to ask these questions before they get them.   Think of it like “Jeopardy”, you’re running a game show where you challenge the reader with interesting circumstances.  Eventually they put the pieces together and match the realizations up with the questions they’ve stored up.

Every time one of the questions are answered (with interesting resolutions) you’ve earned a point with them.  When they don’t like the resolution, or more specifically don’t think the resolution makes sense, you lose points.

I personally love it when an author intentionally ‘sacrifices points’ for the same of misdirection.  If I stick around long enough to know I’ve been played for a fool, it earns a lot of respect in my eyes.  You need a great deal of confidence to annoy your reader on purpose.

I’m not saying I do this intentionally with Two Destroyers or Kingless Country, but having a clear purpose makes it easy to fish for feedback.  All I need to do is have a few questions in mind.  If the reader asks the same questions without prompting, it makes for good evidence I did something right.


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