18.11.11

Swallowing Constructive Criticism


So it's been three months since I began querying my second novel. Three months that have felt like three years. In total, I've queried fifteen agents and have just heard back from the last one. I'm sure you can guess by the lack of exclamation points that all have passed.


However, all is not lost! (ha)


Of the fifteen agents, I received personalized rejections from seven. Some were more detailed than others but they all basically said the same thing: I hate your MC.


Okay, so they didn't actually say that, but rather, that my MC wasn't very relatable. One agent said that she wanted to like my MC, but just couldn't. Another mentioned that I had a "meandering start."


Yikes and yikes.


After curling up into the fetal position going over my beta reader notes I noticed that there were hints of what the agents had said. I couldn't believe it, really, but it was true. My MC is a strong female character but I crossed over the line of relatability. I'd gotten so focused on her strength that I had alienated her.


Not.Good.


I remember that when I first read over the beta reader survey, there were a few things that I didn't agree with. Sure, that happens. People disagree all of the time. As with all criticism (from people that you can trust, that is) there's a reason behind it. I've learned from experience to "take what helps and leave the rest," but what happens if you really are going down the wrong path but don't know it? Isn't that the whole reason you're getting others to read your work?


Well, I got snared in that trap. The trap of not really listening to the feedback my readers gave me. Combine that with the SAME feedback from agents and it's clear to me that I need to do some major revisions.


May-jah.


I let the MS rest for about nine days as I dealt with my medical issues. In the meantime, a lot of authors I love blogged about how they dealt with constructive criticism (Tawna Fenske in particular, click here for her post). I also read a Twitter from an author that offered suggestions on how to tell if your characters are working or not. The information swirled around in my big sexy brain for a while and when I came back to my MS, it was like reading it for the first time. That was both a good and bad thing.


The good thing was that I fell back in love with my MC and her journey. In the last few months, I'd sort of grown to hate her. A natural part of writing that can leave some raiding their freezer for the latest Ben & Jerry's flavour. Luckily, I've moved past that phase (but can unequivocally recommend If I had 1,000,000 Flavours...mmmm).


The bad thing is that I can now clearly see what everyone was talking about. It's not so much of a bad thing, but I see now just how much work I have to do. I've spent the last week ripping my MS to shreds. 


One read-through focused on flushing out my MC's vulnerability. 


Another gave a secondary character a lot more space and influence. 


The third (where I currently am) is amping up the drama because, after all, this is a work of fiction. And fiction doesn't have to be real life. In fact, it shouldn't! People read to escape and since I'm writing chick lit, I need to pick up the pace. Why have something almost catch on fire when it can erupt into flames, evacuate a building and earn my MC the nickname of "Arson Annie?"


I'm sure that you see my point. Haha. 


I think I have a few more read-through's to go and at first I was a little stressed about it because agents are starting to close for queries until the new year. If it takes me that long to re-work my MS, then so be it. I'm not going to rush. The goal is producing the best work I can and I know that my MS is already much stronger than it was when I started querying in September. 


So, at the end of the day, I might of eaten the first round of constructive criticism but am now in the process of chewing and swallowing it. It doesn't taste particularly good, but the more I grind out the juices, the better the outcome is. I've lost count with how many revisions I've done on this MS since I finished the first draft because it doesn't really matter. However long it takes me to get there, I know that I'll eventually see the top of the publication mountain.


I've heard the view is just spectacular.


*straps on hiking shoes*




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