I’ve had a recent opportunity to practice accepting story feedback.
I have a writing circle with a friend and former colleague K – well, it’s more of a line since there are only the two of us – and at our last meeting I took along the initial outline for Bluehammer.
In all seriousness, I have had problems with the plot of Bluehammer for a long time inasmuch as it didn’t really have one, or at least not enough of one: the whole point of last November was to inject some kind of driving plot into the narrative so as to engage the reader more rather than having it be a several-hundred-thousand-word travelogue.
And it certainly helped, but it did not help enough: reading the outline to K, even I was bored.
There are a couple of observations which K made and which I wanted to share.
- the character narratives don’t relate to each other until very late in the story
- each narrative is in sequence, but the timelines are not simultaneous which is hard to convey and potentially confusing
Both of these elements are potentially alienating to the reader. The first one especially is difficult, because it means that the reader is effectively reading three books at once rather than one book. What my friend said was that these are surmountable problems if the world is sufficiently engaging, but while I think that is true in my head I am not expressing that well enough in the writing.
K made some good suggestions for story rearrangements, but the basic options I have are:
- rearrange the story to make it comprehensible without being me
- make the writing truly excellent – which, y’know, it should be anyway, but I’m not a literary writer
I mention the third option because although I have been working on this story since 2005 and I love the setting, it is proving harder than I would like to extract a solid story from the setting and characters that I have in hand.
Still, work to do on it still, and I am glad of hearing the hard truth from a friend rather than shouting into the void of editors ignoring me.
Time for some heavy outlining if I’m going to fix this.