A week or so ago I sent out copies of my manuscript to get feedback. These beta readers have started coming back with comments and though I knew there would be problems, I still felt the blow to my ego. It is easy to assume you are either at the bottom of the pack, in which case you can struggle ever upward or to assume you are at the peak and nothing you do is wrong. But, as prepared as I tried to be, I found it hard to accept that I was somewhere in the middle. My writing is good enough to read but not so good as to outright impress. What do I do with this now?
Some of the feedback is of the typoe / spelling / grammar type of stuff. I was expecting that. Some sentences just don’t work right. I knew they didn’t and I knew there are entire paragraphs that grind like poorly machined gears. That isn’t really a problem. I just have to go over them and smooth them out, pick better words (or correct words as the case may be). The main problems are:
- No strong ending. I felt I would probably be pulled up on this. The book ends at a point suitable for book one to end, but that doesn’t mean it ends at a good point for a single book. I had been revising and rewriting this novel so many times that I couldn’t face doing anything different until I had some feedback from independant parties. I’ve so involved in the writing and restructuring that I felt blind.
- A confusion of characters. This, I think is a little up in the air. While I can see how the book doesn’t end strongly enough for it to stand on its own, the number of characters and the way I move from character to character to tell the story was something I knew would be contraversial. In many cases there is a strong history in epic fantasy of telling a story from many angles. That is, in some ways, what makes epic fantasy epic. The story I chose to tell is not a neat package that starts with Joe the farm boy with unknown parents who discovers he has powerful magic and needs to use it to save the world. My story encompasses centuries of plotting and the evolution of a society. Perhaps it is too ambitious for a first outing? I agree it is a lot to chew, but I have passion for it.
What do I do?
The first problem can be addressed, I think, by writing book two and three. Write the entire story and then decide what goes in which book. I’m currently at 100,000 words which is in the lower end of the middle of word count for epic fantasy. A more typical manuscript might be 120,000 words and a long one 150,000. I could write 20-50% more and still call it book one. That would give me the room to build up to an ending that would be a little more satisfying. It would also be fairly easy for me to introduce an “end of level boss” as it were; a bad guy that could be defeated and seen as a major milestone. The second problem I need to get more feedback about. It could simply be that I am not skilled enough yet to present so many characters and draw them into a single story or it could be that I’m delusional thinking a read won’t naturally get lost in six character’s points of view. The sad thing is that book two introduces a couple more characters so I can tell the other side of the story.
In the meantime
While I wait for more feedback I’ll continue revising other people’s books. I’m most of the way through a rather interesting one written in first person present tense. An unusual choice, but refreshing for that. I’m not sure how the market would greet such a book, but I’m keen to read to the end to see how it all turns out. I find I much prefer to read entire manuscripts rather than individual chapters. I had previously read the first chapter of this book and didn’t get much out of it. I think I need a decent sized story to get into and individual chapters just don’t carry the full flavour of a story well enough.