Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Necessity of Critical Feedback

Every writer and every project inevitably finds that cursed plateau. The writer's tunnel-minded approach ceases to enhance the words, the sentences. The story. Hammering through this invisible barrier requires a different perspective.

Critical feedback is a necessary evil in the editing process
What non-writers may not know is that a novel isn't written in one pass, printed, and vaulted onto bookshelves. No, it passes through layer after layer of drafts, re-writes, and edits. The actual writing is a miniature component of a huge process that takes months and months, probably years. It can be quite hard for a writer to maintain the spark of creativity for such a long haul.

For me, the trick to each new draft is to fool myself into looking at the same piece of writing differently. Simple tricks, like writing in a different room, changing the MS Word format to make it look like a book, printing a literal book, or putting the manuscript aside for an extended period of time, can help shift perspective just enough to wring fresh insight from my creative consciousness. This new perspective helps me recognize a story's flaws and concoct a plan to fix them. 

Eventually, however, the only way to understand fully how a multitude of personalities and opinions is going to react to your work is to thrust it into the universe.

Enter the Beta Reader

Beta readers are an invaluable tool. Beta readers are not average readers, picking up a book for leisure or pleasure, but readers whose main function is to provide the writer with critical feedback that can help the story improve.

Many writers fear beta readers, even shun them. They are afraid of the potential of negative feedback on a piece of work they have poured so much time, heart and soul into, or reject what they see as "writing by committee." Negative criticism, however, is inevitable. Better to face it when the book is at draft stages and still fixable than when it's already published and frozen in final form.

Wattpad: One Medium for Critical Feedback

Recently, I found myself at the crossroad of critical feedback. Needing it, not sure the best way to get it. Family and friends can be useful, but only to a point. Simply put, they are too nice, bias, and afraid to hurt your feelings to provide the type of feedback a writer really needs.

In my search to find beta readers, I stumbled over Wattpad.

Wattpad is a social media platform whose sole function is link together readers and writers, or writers with other writers. 

No doubt many, perhaps most, of the stories found on Wattpad are in such rough shape they are virtually un-readable. But the beauty of the platform is that writing can be syndicated to the world, eliciting feedback from readers and other writers all over the globe.

The current cover for my novel-in-progress
The Razed Ruins, a North American epic
fantasy with a Middle Ages feel
The format of Wattpad allows readers to comment on each paragraph as they read, noting the good and bad bits of writing. Occasionally the feedback is worthless. Like any internet forum there are trolls, negative Nancys, or people that just don't know what they are talking about but talk a lot anyway. But Wattpad also has the other type, skilled writers who provide just what I need to hear to push my piece to the next echelon.

The Necessity of Critical Feedback, Revisited

A favorite adage says that writers are "too close to their work." There is a lot truth in this. Being the omniscient author means you know the full backstory. Bits that are obvious to you might not be to a reader. Sentences that seemed creative and cutting edge might come across as unclear. Gaps in logic, even typos, are filled in by your mind, knowing what you think it says. We writers spend so many countless hours oscillating between love and hate for our work we can no longer tell the difference. 

We need you, helpful beta readers....

I have two novels-in-progress that I've begun to serialize on Wattpad in the double hope that I might elicit some such useful feedback and possibly earn some interested readers. If the story is good enough, perhaps they will take interest in my blog, my website and follow through enough to buy my books when they are (hopefully) published.

Wattpad is perhaps best used as a mobile app. Loaded onto your phone you can take my stories with you everywhere: on the bus, on the couch, to work, to the bathtub.... I believe the mobile app requires you to sign up. Everyone hates that. But if you do, you can read, vote on, and provide feedback for my work and the work of others. And if you have a bit of a writer itch yourself, you too can post your work and participate. 

Wattpad can also be used on a laptop or desktop. From there you can read without signing up but you will not be able to comment or provide those much-needed votes.

Wattpad is not the only way I am currently seeking critical readers. Should you be interested in checking out a few chapters you can email/respond here and we can connect! You can also read the prologue and first section of The Razed Ruins here on this blog.

My Wattpad works:

Bio. Credentials. A list of influences. Hub for all my Wattpad works-in-progress

A North American, post apocalyptic epic fantasy... 

It is 1,692 years after the "Great Death" nearly wiped humanity from the face of the Earth and a new civilization has risen from the ashes. A tenuous union of four semi-autonomous kingdoms has reached its Tercentennial, and the realm's nobles are gathering to elect a new Supreme Chancellor. When a surprise victor emerges, the immediate consensus is of a choreographed scandal. The Union threatens to rupture into civil war...

"Find the kidnapped Prince or you'll never see your wife again..."

Molan Apraxas was once considered the greatest pupil of sorcery in the Mayan empire. Now he is but a farmer, living in contented exile. But when one of the most powerful kings kidnaps his wife he is drawn unwillingly back into his former world. 

Pursued by demigods, monsters, vengeful road agents, and a mysterious sorceress of infamous power, Molan and his 13-year-old daughter are set onto a quest to solve the mystery of the missing prince. Their failure could mean more than just the death of Molan's wife.

If you are interested in reading more of my work, consider signing up for my mailing list. I blog about all sorts of bizarre, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading!

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 

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