Several weeks ago, Margo bravely offered the reworked opening of her WIP (“On the Make,” Book 3 in her Brothers in Blue series) for some feedback.
I was the first to respond, and I questioned a couple things that confused me about the family dynamics. (Whose sons are they again???)
Jannine was next with some tough-love advice, including suggestions for obliterating info dumps.
Rolynn got stopped by some of the phrasing and character development and posed some questions to rethink the section.
Vonnie offered her version of the scene with some comedic elements.
And so it went.
It reminded me of the many committee meetings I’ve attended. You ask a question of a dozen people and get a dozen different answers. It’s not surprising in a meeting, and it’s not surprising from readers/writers either.
Just as each of us has a unique point a view, each of us has a unique “thing” we’re looking for in a book.
We know, for example, that I love emotions and digging into relationships, so it wasn’t a surprise that I focused on the relationships in the scene.
Jannine likes “action, action, action,” so it makes sense that she suggested ways to bring more action to the scene.
What does intrigue me is that I didn’t necessarily see what my fellow Roses saw in the excerpt!
I didn’t get info dump at all from the scene. Introspection, yes, but I was completely hooked (although I did agree that Jannine’s suggestions were excellent!).
Similarly, I didn’t share Rolynn’s opinion of the main character (who had shown a lack of remorse over Husband No. 2’s death). I could absolutely see where she was coming from and how some would read it like that, but I was intrigued by the character’s reaction and just wanted to know more: Why isn’t she more upset about her husband’s death? Is she maybe (gasp) glad he’s dead? I was rooting for her without even knowing why or how she’d been widowed. (So maybe the task for Margo is to add one or two more elements that will endear the character to a reader—maybe a tender exchange with one of the boys...something.)
Vonnie’s rewrite of the scene made me chuckle, and illustrated how a skilled writer can change the mood of a scene.
The varying reactions and suggestions made me ask myself: Is there a larger lesson here? What does it mean?
Here's what I came up with.
It means, in this case, that Margo has a ton of suggestions to comb through to determine which are best for her project. :-) (Ultimately, she’ll have to satisfy her editor, who might have yet different ideas!)
It means that we shouldn’t despair when one reader loves the dark, grittiness of our story and another is completely turned off. Or if one reader snaps up our romantic comedy and another calls it drivel. It’s normal to have a wide range of opinions. We are, I think, by nature Goldilocks readers.
But the biggest lesson to me is that as we craft our stories, we should each embrace our uniqueness. Yes, we need other sets of (skillful) eyes to help point out weaknesses, and we need to look at those suggestions with thick-skinned honesty. But we also need to trust our own voices and our own vision for the story. We need to own our stories and make them uniquely ours.
Once again I’m reminded how tricky and difficult this writing thing is!
To my fellow 'Goldilocks-es': Happy reading, happy writing!
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. Learn more at LeahStJames.com, visit her on Facebook or check out her Pinterest boards where she pins books and videos she loves, along with recipes she'll probably never try and gardens she'll never plant. :-)