Tag Archives: feedback

A change of perspective


So. Back to the novel.

I’m trying not to think about quite how long it’s been since I’ve done any proper work on it, and am consoling myself instead with the fact that, in the midst of all the not-writing I’ve been doing this summer, I might just have had a teensy bit of a breakthrough.

There’s been something niggling away at me ever since I wrote the first draft – ever since, even, I came up with the concept. It’s the thing that, I think, has led to the inability of my agent to be entirely enthusiastic through all the various rewrites in the months and months that followed, and has led to me clamming up when asked to explain exactly what my novel is about.

Because it turns out that it might not be about what I thought it was at all.

The lightbulb began to flicker into life on a sunny afternoon in my garden when I was sat with a writer friend who had come to visit, discussing what she thought of my manuscript. She was effusively positive, loved the concept, was won over by its uniqueness and its potential for adaptation for the screen. I basked in the glow of her admiration until suddenly it became very apparent that she just hadn’t ‘got’ it. She had totally misinterpreted my main character, and as a result had completely missed the point of the novel I had written.

Or so I thought.

Over the course of the few days we spent together, as I reluctantly let go of the message I’d been trying to communicate and my friend convinced me that actually her reading had way more potential from both a literary and commercial standpoint, I realised that I had inadvertently told a completely different story from the one I thought I had. And actually the one I was left with might just have been what I was looking for all along.

I apologise if this is all coming across as excessively cryptic. I’d love to be able to fill you in on exactly what it is that’s been turned on its head to make me suddenly see the way forward. Unfortunately, though, it would completely spoil the story for you. And I very much hope that you will get to read it, one day.

I have been desperate to get on with editing since this little revelation, but things have been way too hectic. Even now I have a couple more weeks of adventuring before I can properly hunker down and set my story straight – but I do have a plan about what I’m going to do in the meantime.

Firstly, I am writing a synopsis. I started yesterday, and I am really, really hating the process, but it’s pretty essential that I get it done. I need to be able to express, confidently, what the novel I’m working on is all about – to myself, and anyone else who might be interested.

Secondly, I have a pile of inspirational reading that I need to make a bit of a dent in. The final phase of this summer’s adventures involves pootling around in a campervan, and I’m hoping that might go rather well with making my way through a book or five.

Then when we’re back I am diving straight on in to (yet) another edit. This time, though, I’m feeling much more confident about where it’s all going.

Just remember to remind me of that in a month or so!


Writing Bubble

The gift of feedback


I have realised this week how much I absolutely love getting feedback on my writing. Compliments are nice of course, especially useful for storing up and peeking at when confidence is low, but ideas, advice, opinions – they’re like gold-dust.

I’ve had some incredibly useful feedback this week. Some interesting thoughts about the opening of my novel (if you haven’t seen it then I would love it if you’d take a look), and also a long and detailed email from a novelist friend of my agent who was kind enough to read my second draft.

There’s a sense of pride that bubbles up as I read what people have to say about my writing. It comes from the fact they’ve read it, for a start, which is pretty awesome in itself. But then they’ve thought about it, and applied a critical eye that’s so, so hard to do to something I’ve written myself, and offered up their own ideas about what could make it better.

Even if I don’t agree with everything they say the feedback is still invaluable. It starts a chain reaction in my mind, a network of ‘what ifs’ that cuts through the editor’s block that I find so much more insidious than its first draft counterpart.

I have to admit that after the cautious optimism I felt this time last week I’d actually hit a bit of a wall. I felt overwhelmed by the task of once again picking my manuscript apart, and began to doubt whether I was capable of it.

But then the new wave of feedback came in, and alongside that I was asked to write a post for Faber Academy about why I write, and I remembered that it is all about pushing my comfort zone, about confronting my fears and daring to do it anyway.

And so I will.


Writing Bubble


Begin again


I had grand plans for this January. Having spent a couple of months pondering and planning, I was all set to begin writing my third novel. There’s something about starting something new that sits very comfortably with me this time of year. The no-pressure creativity of a first draft, where you’re free to let the story and the characters take you where they want, secure in the knowledge that there’ll be plenty of time for redrafts later.

But then just before Christmas I opened an email from my agent that scuppered all that.

It wasn’t a bad email, and I knew it was coming. I’d sent her the second draft of my second novel a few weeks before. Though I’d prodded and tweaked and added and deleted, I knew it wasn’t perfect. But I suppose somewhere in the recesses of my mind I hoped that maybe I’d managed a miracle, that I’d solved all the niggling problems of the first draft in one fell swoop and we’d be ready to begin the terrifying but exciting process of sending it out to publishers.

Part of me’s glad that she agrees it needs more work. But it’s taken a huge mental shift to put down the tantalising threads of the new story that was beginning to develop and return to this one, hoping that somehow with fresh eyes the answers about how to release its potential will leap out at me.

I didn’t touch it at all over Christmas. And then there was Arthur’s birthday. And New Year.

But yesterday I sat down and read Becky’s email again. There were plenty of positives to buoy my spirit, and plenty of questions to challenge me too.

I’ve decided I need to see my words on paper. I haven’t done that with the second draft yet, and it really does make a difference. So I’ve printed the manuscript off and am ready to begin again.

I’m starting small this time, with the new mechanical pencil that Santa bought me replacing the multicoloured pens and post-it notes I used to attack the first draft. I feel like what I’m looking for is more subtle this time. Not that I’m ruling out major changes – I have some ideas about structure and characterisation that might make things very different.

We shall see.

But for now it’s simply time to embrace the new challenges January has thrown up, to hold onto my conviction that this is a story worth telling, and to search deep inside myself for the very best way to tell it.

It is time to begin again.



Muddled Manuscript