One Method For Incorporating Feedback In Your Writing

If you’re a writer, at some point between you putting the words down and it going out to its intended audience, you’re probably going to solicit some feedback (and if you don’t, you probably should).

Be it from one or all of these:

  • an alpha reader
  • a flock of beta readers
  • a writing group
  • a critique partner
  • a paid editor
  • an agent
  • an acquiring Editor for a publishing house
  • or your mom

you’re likely going to receive some feedback other than, “I loved it! Don’t change a thing!”

But, when that feedback is more nebulous or overarching than typos and wording, it can be tricky to know where to start.

Here are the 6 steps I follow when receiving reader feedback

Step 1 – Read the feedback

You’d think it would go without saying, but it’s easy to get ticked off three comments in, decide that the person who sent the feedback totally doesn’t get your book, your genre, and might not read your language, and storm off.

Luckily, I can calm my knee-jerk reactions by subscribing to what I call:

Morgan’s Rule Of Thirds

  • 1/3rd is line and copy edits – easy to fix or skip if it’s a stylistic thing or they don’t know what they’re talking about.
  • 1/3rd is where the reader didn’t get your story and/or your writing style. You can probably ignore these. (But, don’t delete them just yet….)
  • 1/3rd is the stuff that you thought you’d fixed, but really? You’d just painted over it and called it ‘good enough’.
    • These issues are typically related to the tricky things like:
      • motivation
      • set-up
      • emotional impact

Step 2 – Give yourself time to cool off

Sit on the feedback for a couple hours, or days, or weeks. However much time you need before you open it back up, and can face it without your ego screaming.

Step 3 – Analyse the feedback and fix the little things

Maybe this should be two steps, but as I go through, line-by-line, I usually fix the little things- even if they might get deleted later. The typos and line-edits, so that the feedback is reduced to something I can actually process, without the noise of all the little stuff.

Look not only at WHAT the feedback is saying but WHERE it’s saying it. The reader might have given you edits telling you how to fix it. They are only SUGGESTIONS, not fixes. But look at the scene, the paragraph. Maybe there is something confusing, maybe it wasn’t set up properly and that’s why the reader got confused, maybe you need to move the scene.

Is there some way that you can make it so the way you had it was inevitable — given the world, characters, and issues? Is there a better way to change it, so that the pieces come together more smoothly?

The reader might be wrong about how to fix it, but they often know WHERE something needs to be fixed.

Step 4 – Make the edits

This is where you make the complicated changes — cutting or moving scenes or characters, fixing pacing, adding tension, condensing backstory.

Whatever you’ve decided needs to be done — taking suggestions and doing with them as you will.

Step 5 – Reread and blend the new stuff with the old

Whether you’ve used the suggested wording from your reader or your own phrasing, edits don’t always fit in smoothly with the rest of the manuscript.

After you’ve agonized over the feedback, debated how to integrate it, and finessed it with all of your skills, it’s still gonna need a bit more polish.

You’re gonna need to re-read the lead up THROUGH the outro of the sections you’ve revised. Along the way, you’re looking for:

  • continuity errors
  • awkward phrasing
  • scene pacing
  • repetitious paragraphs or phrases (my favorite)
    • The number of times I’ve added a paragraph to emphasize something, then found I’d already had it in there, nearly word for word a page later — where it fit better in the pacing… Well, let’s just say it’s more than a handful of times.

Step 6 – Send it out again

I like to send it to 2 types of people

  1. People who have read it before, to make sure I didn’t break anything
  2. A new reader, to make sure the confusion points were actually fixed

I write fantasy, so there’s a lot of world building involved, but even if you don’t, you may want to do this. An old reader can spot a lot, but they can’t tell if you’re introducing everything in the right order — soon enough as to minimize confusion, but slow enough as to not overwhelm the reader.

You can only have someone read your story for the first time, once. After that, your world starts to become familiar territory.

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And that’s it. That’s my editing process. For each and every round.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post – ’cause I’m ready for step 5 with my current revisions!


Do you have any editing tricks that I missed?

Anything you prefer to do differently?

PitchWars? Not For Me, This Year.

Sitting This One Out

For the first time since I found the PitchWars community, I’m really not entering.

Between work stress, life stress, and not having anything new, it’s just not going to happen for me this year.

I haven’t even looked at any of the blogs in the mentor blog-hop.

I mean, I haven’t put away the manuscript I submitted both of the last two years, but it’s just getting minor tweaks between rounds of queries.

And it’s not that I stopped writing. I’ve mentioned that middle-grade adventure that I’m almost excited about.

Yet, here I am, listening to my writer groups filled with people all their nervous and excited and stressing over mentors, reminding me the time when my manuscript was new and shiny and full of hope. Before I had to polish the smudges weekly to see that hope shine back at me.

creepy let me in GIF by Team Coco


Are you entering PitchWars?

I wish you all the best. That your manuscript starts to shine.

I hope you can find the right mentor, the one that gets your story and knows exactly what it needs to grow. Better pacing? New plot twists? Cutting characters?

A lot of work is in store for those that are chosen.

For those of you that aren’t?

New beta-readers and critique partners await, with writing boot camps and editing methodologies ready to be selected.

Your manuscript is ready to level up.


But for me? I just feel tired.

 

adorable animal basket cuddly

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com


Are you writing a story? Where are you in the process?

Plotting? Writing? Editing? Polishing?

If you’re doing PitchWars, tell me about your story!

Accountability Time For Morgan

For me, accountability is key for me moving forward with my writing. So, here’s my irregularly scheduled check-in post, to let you know what I’ve been up to!

1. Query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent

(unless I’m revising it)

Well, thanks to that little caveat, I’ve only missed about 3 times this year. Because every time I hear back on a query, I take another look at my pages…

For reals, though. I’m planning on sending out another 3-8 queries in the next few weeks on WIP #1.

Although, from checking my SPAM folder with a hitherto now unknown diligence, I now know that the Nigerian Prince scam isn’t actually an urban legend. They come in ever 3-6 weeks, like clockwork.

2. Move forward with my picture book

I’ve done no research or revisions. I need to decide if I’m moving forward on this. It’s a sweet bedtime story, with little to make it stand out.

Plan? Find some picture book writers and see what they think: does it stand out, how should I edit it, or back to the drawing boards.

3. Revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts

Nope. But the year isn’t over? I don’t *think* I can count revising my WIP #1, again…

4. Write something NEW during NaNoWriMo

Well, I’ve got something new in my head. Working on getting a story ready, so I’m pretty sure I’m gonna write something new. I’m just hoping it’s more than 5,000 words.

I may start it early, but 50,000 in anything new should be reasonable for this goal.

5. Keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at the blogging thing and I’m slowly building a vlogging audience.

My blog is growing – I average over 100 views a week thanks to viewers like you. I started a new Query Corner feature, that’s up to 25 queries already. I’m looking into a published author spotlight feature, so look out for that!

Plus, my vlog is growing – I average 25 views per post – eventually. Not amazing, but I remember when my blog was there.

6. Try to use  social media better

This one I think I’m doing fine at.

  • This is the year I wrote my own guide to social media
  • I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter (last night)
    • I’ve tried to use it regularly, not just for posting
  • I’ve posted 132 things on Instagram – so beating my goal of 1 thing a week
  • I’ve been using Tumblr more, joined the #writeblrs?
  • I’ve earned 81 Reddit karma – even writing a couple short stories to add to r/noSleep. Thus, practicing this whole ‘writing short stories’ thing.
  • I’m using Pinterest — we’ll see if it helps
  • I joined a couple blogger groups, but I’m not sure if I’m the right demographic

7. Read an average of 2 books a month

BAM! Got this one.

I’ve been ranking them on GoodReads – and sometimes on Amazon. No bonus points for reviewing them, but I’ve already read 23 books this year – putting me 1 away from my yearly target.

2018BooksJuly

* Bonus – Networking!

Okay, this one wasn’t a written goal, but I’m giving myself points for attending 3 different writers groups in the last 2 months, joining 2 of them, and reading my work aloud to an audience. Plus volunteering to help judge a writing contest.

Note to self: Remember to make time to write your fiction. Not just blogging, networking, and all the rest…

7 Tips For Writing Better Villains

Write The Villain Your Story Deserves

As I’ve discussed before, there’s a difference between an antagonist and a villain. Your story doesn’t need a villain, but if you’re going to have one, you should have a memorable one.

  • Prince Humperdink/Count Rugen
  • The Joker
  • Voldemort
  • Emperor Palpatine

These are the names and the stories that stick with us. And sometimes? We love them anyway.

But how does one create a memorable villain, worthy of one’s story? Here are some tips.

#1 – Avoid under-developed villains

Remember, villains have their own lives, outside of thwarting your protagonist. They need to be 3-dimensional characters with motivations that make sense — even if you disagree with their decisions.

#2 – If you must use a cliche, add a twist

The childhood trauma, the revenge on the government/mob/whatever, the delusion that they’re doing good…make sure you’re not following the formula too closely.

#3 – Make Sure Your Villain Isn’t Underpowered

The protagonist has to work for their win, you don’t want to just hand it to them. There has to be credible belief that the villain might win. Readers appreciate (while they’re cursing you) the anticipation and anxiety they experience during a narrow win, much better than the easily thwarted villain.

#4 – Flawed Villains

Villains are only human. (Most of them) Typically, it’s their own personal flaw that leads to the protagonist’s ability to win the day–or at least a stalemate. Pride is traditional, but something has to get them to lose control of themselves and/or the situation.

NOTE: The flip side to this is that the protagonist should win by CONQUERING their own personal flaw. Maybe not permanently, but facing it and accepting it during the story’s climax.

#5 – Villain Doesn’t Need To Mean Evil

Bad guys don’t have to be evil to oppose the protagonist. Was Mr. Smith evil (at least at first)? They just need to have conflicting goals. The teacher who’s trying to get the class to behave, the parents who just want what’s best for their children, the dedicated priestess of Cthulu who just wants the ancient ones to devour humanity… Oh, wait. Ignore that last one.

In one recent movie that I won’t name for fear of spoilers, the protagonist ends up agreeing with the villain’s argument–albeit, not their methods. Just because you’re the bad guy, doesn’t mean you aren’t right.

#6 – The Villain doesn’t have to be there in person

Often, your protagonist doesn’t even know who they’re up against when they start out on their journey. They just keep running into impediments and/or conflicts without finding the source.

And if they do figure out who’s to blame? Often, it starts with just a little whisper. A rumor.

Voldemort. Fisk. The Serpent Queen.

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#7 – The Villain can be representational

Sometimes, the villain isn’t a distant bad guy. Sometimes, the true bad guy is an organization. And, be it the government, the mob, or some other sort of societal aim, you can use an agent of said organization to embody the villain for your protagonists.

The Operative in Firefly, Ms. Coulter in The Golden Compass, they’re both stand-ins for the true enemy.

 

And there you have it. 7 tips for writing better villains!


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Good protagonists deserve great villains.

Who’s your favorite villain?

3 Tips for Deciding What Point-of-View to Use

Picking a POV

All The New Things

This has been a weird week for me. Between Amazon Prime Day last week, a little space in my budget, and my beginning dealings with a new story, I’ve been trying something new every day this week.

Last week, during Amazon Prime Day, I finally replaced my fitness tracker that I broke up with 2 months ago. If you’re gonna make me un-pair/re-pair every time I want to sync my tracker? AND not save any data from previous days? You’re not worth it.

So, this week has been full of reminders to get up and walk around every hour while at day-job. And me actually using the My FitnessPal App to track my meal intake. Which of course led me to put in for that standing/sitting desk topper that my work offers to get people if they put in a request. Which led me to finding a $50 elliptical on Craigslist. Which is now sitting in my sunroom, awaiting time to see if it can fit into my tiny spare bedroom of a ‘workout room’.

AND? I picked up an Instapot. A friend came over and we (mostly she) experimented. I’m still getting used to my new grocery store and I might have to switch because this one didn’t have everything I wanted. But the honey-garlic glazed chicken was AMAZING. (Plus, we finally got back to watching Grace and Frankie on NetFlicks for the first time since I moved!)

And? Remember that story I was talking about last week? That new one that I was scared to write, worried it could never measure up? Well, I’m about 900 words into it and I, for the life of me, cannot decide if I want to use 1st-person or 3rd-person point-of-view (POV).

True, I could also debate tense, but I’m comfortable in past tense and not looking to switch it up for a novel.

You’re more likely to see, “The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifted past the cupboards and made my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignored it.”

than

“The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifts past the cupboards and makes my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignores it.”

Morgan looks stressed and confused

POV Decision Factors

    1. What are you most comfortable with?

      Me? I’m most comfortable with 1st-person. It’s how I think, how I see my world and characters. When I’m first learning about a character and world, I make notes, but when I’m starting a story, I fall directly into 1st-person.

    2. What are the genre expectations?

      Traditionally, novels were written in 3rd-person.

      You have options in 3rd that you don’t have in 1st.

      • You can have outside information.
      • If you have more than one Main Character, it can be less confusing to the reader.
      • You can be all-knowing. OR.
      • You can do what’s known as ‘3rd-person close’, in which your story is told from basically a GoPro watching over the main character(s), that can also dip into your main character’s head and share their thoughts.

      But I write YA (and maybe MG? A chapter book? What is this new thing turning into) These days, 1st person is becoming more and more popular.

      Look at your genre’s trends.

    3. What Feels Write Right For Your Story?

      When all else fails, just see what works for your story!

      If you need to, write a chapter in one POV, and then switch it to the other.

      Personally, my 3rd-person still feels clunky, but I’d like my story to have a fairytale sort of feel to it, so I’m going to keep on trying and see if I get it right. So, this is a case of ‘wrong for me, but maybe right for the story.’

      I’ll just have to keep writing to find out if I made the right call.


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How do you decide what point of view and tense to use in your stories?

Have you ever gotten it wrong?