Sunday, February 15, 2009

On The Nature Of Feedback....

Such a philosophical sounding title, perhaps reflective of my current philosophical mood.

I've been thinking today about the whole exercise of giving a manuscript to friends in the hope of getting helpful feedback. Probably this has been sparked by the second-last reader returning the manuscript this afternoon. I suspected this person didn't have particularly good things to say when her first words to me were "here is your book and some comments, I hope you won't hold it against me". Sure enough it was fairly negative - well, very negative actually, although there were a few 'nice' comments thrown in, just to encourage me ('don't give up', and 'this is a good start' are two that stick in my mind).

Yes, I feel fairly down about it, coming on top of several other negative reviews. But what I'm pondering is this: should I feel down about it? does this sort of feedback really mean the book is bad, or just that it is a good book that can be a whole lot better? And does that sentence I just typed even make sense? (It's late by the way, I probably shouldn't even be attempting to make sense at this hour...)

What I'm trying to say is this. I read somebody's webpage a while ago, where they were talking about the whole process they go through in writing a book. They weren't a published author, but obviously were trying to be. They wrote how they had given a final draft to a friend, and had the friend turn up on their doorstep the next day, all hot-and-bothered, gasping 'you need to publish this .... now'. But the confusing thing was that from what I could see, they never did get published. I can only assume that when they sent it through to the proper channels it was rejected, despite the glowing comment from their friend.

So maybe it's not such a good thing to have gushing feedback. Perhaps it can instill a false sense of confidence in an author, and make them rush to forward in a manuscript that perhaps in actuality is not ready. Certainly none of the friends who read mine gave me any delusions of grandeur, quite the opposite. Perhaps these sorts of kicks are the best thing to force a writer back to the drawing board, to push them that step further towards a better piece of work. Perhaps those who get such negative comments are the ones who eventually get published.

Then again, perhaps what I'm typing here is total excrement, and so is my manuscript. But I need to try and put a positive spin on it. It's either that or go back to learning new programming languages in my spare time. Thankyou no.

So I know I'll keep at it, keep plugging away and knocking on that door. I have a two-fold strategy for the next few weeks. The first is to keep waiting for the assessor's report. If she says enough positive things I'll make any suggested changes and pitch it, as well as sending it to three or four agents. I suspect that even if she says the book is a dog I'll still do those things, just for the sake of getting the experience. Then the Ghost of Ping-Ling will be off my hands, its fate beyond my control.

My second strategy is to start work on book 2, which is actually a prequel to Ghost, set about twenty years before. The book stands alone, and will be in a different style, so if things go nowhere with Ghost it will become my next project, and my aim will be to finish it before the end of the year and try again.

Then, if that fails, I'll try for a third.

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