Monday, March 22, 2010

Listening to You Inner Nag

I've gotten feedback about the mid-section of my book from several readers now. While most of the responses are positive, a series of important questions came up in the critiques. More than questions, really. Too many were of the form I don't like when . . . , I don't believe it that . . . , I don't like this character when . . .

The first response when I read this kind of stuff is, naturally, Damn It. This comes from the conflicting urges that swirl around inside me. I want to be told that my writing is magnificent, perfect just the way it is. That it cures cancer, enhances women's bustlines and improves male performance. But the second urge, the one that has to win, needs to hear the truth.

So, after about three-second's-worth of depression, I sat down to consider the complaints.

It didn't take long for a very consistent theme to emerge. Nearly every one of the larger complaints related to something that I knew, at some level, was problematic. As I was writing, I had some niggling sense that I was stretching things, that I was asking for trouble.

Usually this happened because I knew I needed to get my character into a certain situation, didn't care much what the excuse was, and went with the first thing that came to mind. The situation causing a reader to complain wasn't the point of things, it was just a transport mechanism from some point that mattered to another point that mattered.

I wasn't exactly being lazy. Impatient is more the word. And in my impatience, I chose to ignore my Inner Nag.

I can't tell you how many times this proves to be a bad idea. Readers have eyes like I do. Very likely they'll see the jangling shortcut and complain.

So now I'm going back to give these transitions the attention they really deserve. And I'm hoping to be a better listener the next time Nag has something to say.

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