Thursday, May 6, 2010

Can you see what I see?

I'm sure we've all felt this way every now and again (well, I hope so or I'm just feeling like an idiot). We write a story, one which we can see perfectly and it sounds like it flows well and is full of action... and is definitely a step up from the gibberish that was the previous draft. Then, when someone takes a little squiz at it you hear "I don't get it".

I've been feeling like this a lot lately. I've been hard at work reading through Haven and as I read closer to the end I keep wondering to myself will anyone be able to understand this besides me?

Since we are the ones writing this story we know exactly what's happening whether that is exactly displayed in the pages is another matter entirely. I've received a couple of critiques of my opening few paragraphs and they totally misconstrued what it was about. One even made the comment that I've got too much back story in the opening. The one problem is, I've got absolutely no back story in the first chapter... I actually haven't put a lot of back story there whatsoever.

This got me thinking. Is what I think I'm writing actually what is getting read by the readers? How can you make certain the true meaning of the story is being heard and the reader can actually follow along? This is where establishing a good critique group or employing beta readers to read for comprehension is the best way to go.

No matter how objective you think you are over that precious manuscript that you've spent months/years perfecting, your still too close to the story and know all the little twists and turns so of course it makes sense to you.

One thing I've also learnt is that not everyone will like that wonderful, perfect story (or be able to fully understand it), so if you only get a couple of negative comments about a way that a scene is set up, then the best thing to do would be to use your gut instincts as to whether you need to make a change, but if everyone suggests that something doesn't feel right then that should mean drop everything to fix that glaring plot hole before anyone else catches it.

So, does anyone else feel this way? And how do you make sure your story makes sense to more people than just you?


MeganRebekah said...

It's definitely hard! And no matter how good you get at it, you won't be as good as a true outsider. Even my writing group, after we've read each other's work so many times we start to miss little things that wouldn't make sense to an outsider.

And keep trying to find someone who gets your work. It's such an amazing feeling when one of your crit partners crosses out a piece of dialogue and says "Your MC would never say this, it's too emotional." They get her. They get my work. And I love it.

Keep working, believe it or not, by being aware like you are, you're actually on the right path!

Kerri Cuev said...

That is a hard one! I read mine out loud and that helps to see if it makes sense.

Christine Fonseca said...

That's a hard one - and yeah, one I think abou often. I think reading it aloud, trusting crit partners, and for me - listening to my teen beta readers...all of it together, plus my judgement - that is a good place to start!

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think a critics group with many different genre writers in it is the best way to go. My critics group has one writer of character driven thrillers- another of historical family stories- and two YA fantasy writers. I'm more mainstream YA/Romance. So I get a lot of different perspectives on my writing. The first thing I do when I get my critics back from everyone is to highlight places that EVERYONE had a problem with. Then I kind of pick through it and see what speaks to me.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I agree with Creepy Query Girl. A well-rounded critique group is the way to go. My partners write novels, one specializes in short stories, and I am a picture book and chapter book writer. They are golden! :-)

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

Creepy Query Girl has a great point. See if they agree on anything - at least, on any one area. Even if all the opinions are different, you'll know something is weak there.

I think if they don't get a scene, then something's been left out that they need to know. It's hard to find the balancing point between too much and too little info - you can *never* know how much your reader knows about any given subject.

India Drummond said...

It's even worse for me... if I leave a project, sometimes when I go back, it doesn't even make sense to ME!

I recently found an outline and notes for an aborted project that I wanted to restart, and I couldn't remember half of what was going on or why!

lisa and laura said...

Um, been there done that! I think the only solution is to find some really fantastic beta readers for your work. People who will be honest and tell you exactly where you've lost them, where their eyes glaze over and where they're begging for more. I don't think any writer is objective enough to do it alone!

Annie McMahon said...

That's why I like the review forum so much. There's no way for me to know if my novel makes sense to other people unless they read it and tell me what they think.

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