So you want to be a novelist

10 07 2012

I know feedback is important, but sometimes I feel like I’m writing a book by committee.

First there were the reactions of the folks in my writer’s group.

“That POV change in the last chapter is jarring. You need to figure out a different way of doing it.”

“I had no trouble with the POV change. It seemed perfectly smooth and natural, and gave the reader information they otherwise couldn’t have gotten.”

“The main character is too weak.”

“I thought he was charming! Except in this scene. I thought he gave in too quickly.”

“No, that scene made perfect sense to me, but this other one needs fixing.”

“It’s all because the female character is too bossy.”

“What do you mean too bossy? She’s a strong female, and that’s great!”

“But she isn’t believable. What she does isn’t believable. The reader won’t accept it.”

“I think she’s perfectly believable, and Justine, don’t you dare change a thing about her!”


Okay, some things I change, some things I don’t. Deciding which is which is a hard call, especially when diametrically opposed opinions come from people I respect equally. Then on to my beta readers.

“The novel is too short. Makes it less marketable. You need way more detail, do more ‘showing’ instead of ‘telling’, add more description.”

“What I really love about your writing is that it doesn’t drag on with all sorts of unnecessary descriptions and details. I hate it when authors go on and on like that. I usually just skip over that part anyway to get to the action. You just tell the story, and that’s great!”


So I agonize over this conundrum, play with a few ideas, but mostly I can’t come up with added details that don’t come off as filler. If it was meant to be there, I had it there in the first place. Trying to pad it out adds all the appeal of shredded cardboard. I give it up and push on to the next level.

Now the feedback from the professionals.

“You need to rewrite the beginning. It’s got to have a really powerful opening to hook the reader. And this business with the letters has to go; the reader doesn’t care about any of this. Then this section really would be more effective over here, and this scene needs to be spiced up, it’s too bland. And if you want to make this really marketable, it needs to have a YA spin, add some young characters. Like, what about if the female character has a couple of kids? Yeah, that would work. It could all be told from their POV.”

Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my song.




4 responses

10 07 2012

Oh, so true!

10 07 2012
Rev Katherine Alexander

If you write it ……they will comment. 😉

10 07 2012
Terri Bruce

ahahahaaha! AWESOME!

12 07 2012
phoebe wray

Ah yes, the feedback. I listen to it all, but that doesn’t mean I will do what anybody says. Finally, it has to come out of my heart/mind/guts. Unique DNA and all that.

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