Friday, March 6, 2009

Ah-Ha! I Spy A What-The!

So, this afternoon I walked in the door and glanced at the kitchen bench, as per previous description in previous post. I was about to turn away in disappointment when I noticed a package under a few envelopes. Sure enough, this was the one - the assessor's report, which inexplicably I had imagined to be a bigger package than it was (because the one I sent contained the package it was to be returned in, and obviously the one sent back didn't - make sense? didn't think so).

I was terrified. Very, very scared. Carefully I took it into the computer room as if it was ticking, and put it near the PC. Then I continued my afternoon's routine, vowing that I would open it later in the evening when the boys went to bed. I just didn't know what I was expecting, or how I would take it, or anything.

Finally I gave in, and while the boys played with granny in the play room I sat down, opened it, and read it as slowly as I could.

I've learned a lot about feedback in the last little while. One of the things I've learned (and I can't remember whether I read this or thought it up) is that there are two types of feedback. The first type is 'Ah-ha' feedback, and the second type is 'What-the' feedback.

Ah-ha feedback is where you read something somebody says, and you say 'Ah-ha', because it clicks with you. Deep down you already knew what the feedback was telling you already, the person has simply confirmed or clarified it for you - either that or it clicks with you because you can see immediately that it makes good sense and it's absolutely right.

What-the feedback, not surprisingly, is the type where you say 'what-the' when you hear it. You say that because you would never have thought of what the person is saying, and even after you've heard it you're not quite sure whether you agree with it or not.

The most valuable feedback you can get is ah-ha feedback, because it's the feedback you can and should use. When you use ah-ha feedback you are bringing your manuscript (or whatever the feedback applies to) more in line with how you originally intended it. and how you want it.

What-the feedback is another animal altogether. While that sort of feedback should certainly be listened to and evaluated, careful discretion must be used as to whether or not to make use of it. Otherwise there is a risk of imposing another person's viewpoint onto your own work - then it is no longer truly yours.

Margaret's feedback was largely ah-ha feedback. As I read it I found myself nodding and smiling, because I knew what she was saying was totally right. The two main things she identified were:

1) Dillen doesn't have enough of a reason to go after Hallegat - he needs a stronger motivation.
2) Dillen doesn't sufficiently earn the solutions to his problems, too many of them drop into his lap by chance, luck or by the intervention of others.

I already knew point 1 - deep down. A number of readers had already identified it - and although I had taken steps to rectify it the basic flaw was still there - and I knew it! (or at least strongly suspected it).

Point 2 surprised me a little, because no reader had previously identified it and I certainly hadn't seen it - but the moment I read it I knew it was absolutely 100 percent correct.

There were many other comments too, but none as significant as the above and all very easily fixed. Some of them (probably about a third) was what-the feedback, but the majority was very definitely ah-ha.

And I feel really, really good - though I'm very aware that now I'm out of excuses for not continuing with the next draft. I face slighly more of a major re-write than I anticipated, though it's still only a month or so's work.

Margaret also ended her cover letter by saying the book 'shows great promise'. From Margaret this is great praise indeed.

And now, I'm going to have a very large glass of red wine.

No comments:

Post a Comment