Professional Feedback & Summoning Dragons

One piece of advice I’ve heard a few times is that writers should believe all negative feedback and ignore the positive. In other words, don’t let compliments go to your head. In the world of constructive criticism, you never know what tidbits have been thrown in to take the sting out of what people actually want to tell you. It’s like when someone says, “That’s an interesting shirt.” (Hint: It’s not always a compliment.)

But, if you ignore all positive feedback, you never learn what’s working in your piece and can’t compare it to what isn’t. Really, positive comments should be taken with a grain of salt (or a heap of it, depending on the source). The point is not to ignore the negative comments, which many of us are prone to do.

I recently received some professional feedback from an excellent literary agent (see my previous post) on the first 30 pages of my finished manuscript. With the sweets thoroughly salted, I’m going to take her comments as encouraging. In short, she said that the writing was excellent and the opening scene was engaging, but that the action didn’t pick up fast enough in the subsequent scenes. There’s a lot of action later in the book, but I guess I focused a lot on world-building and meeting characters in the latter half of my sample pages.

Story Beginning Drawing - stephendeas.comHer comments totally make sense to me — a few months ago, I had the notion to throw in a random scene involving a wayward dragon (note: there are no dragons in my book) to amp up the action at the beginning. It looks like I’m going to have to come up with a way to do this after all — with or without actual dragons.

A problem with all this is that I’ve been working on revising this novel all week and have made almost no progress on my actual NaNoWriMo novel. I really would love to have two finished novels, ideally before my baby boy is monopolizing my time. I already have moments when I just sit around thinking how cute the cats are — I can’t imagine how often I’ll do that when there’s a baby around the house, not to mention the time it’ll take to care for him. Hopefully I can still make this work!

In the meantime, I’m considering dragons. Or goblins. Or, probably the wisest move, just moving some scenes around in the beginning. As far as NaNoWriMo goes, one finished novel is better than two in the hopper. Right?

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