I have received critiques on Herbert from all my beta-readers as of yesterday. Much thanks to Ali, Kate, Krista, Jenn, and Jennilyn, plus my husband who always gets the first read. Amazing beta-readers, you are a treasure. May all aspiring writers be so lucky.

I stress the word amazing, because I strongly feel you can’t give your early draft of work to just anyone. I think it’s important to find readers who a) are intelligent, b) you like c)have an understanding of story structure and d) are in tune with the kinds of stories you write. Some people ask to read my work and I joyfully tell them I would love for them to read my book when it’s published. πŸ™‚ What can I say? I’m protective of my babies. Shield them until they’re ready to face the world.

Gail Carson Levine once said in a keynote address at LTUE that she had people read her early drafts because “I’m very stupid when I write and I need people to point out where I’m stupid.” I’m glad she said that. Though all my readers were complimentary and gracious, they did indeed point out where I was stupid. Great! Thanks!

It can be overwhelming to get so much feedback and see how far you really have to go before your manuscript is ready. But I’ve been processing it all and I’ve come up with a plan. I’ll relay that plan to you in the form of advice.

1. Read through each critique twice. You’ll start to internalize the patterns and repeats of feedback and then you will know what the big things are you need to change.

2. Make a revision list. Organization. Growl. But really when there’s that much stuff swirling around in your brain it behooves us all to become organized. Start with the big things and move down to the small.

2. Set aside the line-edits for now. It’s too overwhelming to think about small details when you still need to cut chunks of boring crap, fill in holes, clarify confusion, and develop lacking scenes and characters. Go through the line edits when you’re fairly certain your storyline is clean. Chances are some the line edits will be taken care of during the big edits.

3. Keep the story your own. Even if you get the same feedback from several authors and you know something needs to change, make sure it stays within your vision of the story. I’ve heard several agents comment on this, how the requested revisions actually weakened the story because the author only tried to please the agent instead of keeping the integrity of their voice and vision. As my old acting teacher would say, “Take the direction and make the connection.” I wanted to punch him when he said that, but it’s true.

Onward and upward. I have a deadline of February 28th and then Herbert will go off to another round of new readers.


7 comments

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Liesl, and thanks for sharing Herbert with me! I still think about him sometimes, and I wish you all the best as you continue to clean him up.

    • Kelsey

    • February 8, 2011

    • 10:09 pm

    Great post. Makes me appreciate my own betas πŸ™‚

  2. I know Herbert is going to be wonderful! (He already is, but with every revision he’ll be even more spectacular.) Also, Herbert’s a code name I presume?

  3. I’ve just sent a manuscript out to my critique partners and need a pretty quick turnaround (I’m working under deadline). It’s so helpful to have other writers willing to look at my work again and again (and work in short notice).

    • Liesl

    • February 8, 2011

    • 11:23 pm

    Thanks Kate, and yes Herbert is a code name. It’s silly but I don’t like to reveal anything until I feel like the book is ready to go.

    • ali

    • February 9, 2011

    • 3:51 am

    Ha! I love the acting teacher’s advice! I think your plan is most excellent Liesl! Your story’s gonna ROCK!!

    • Sita

    • February 9, 2011

    • 5:45 am

    Haha, speaking of old acting teachers, I have an awesome memory of Mr. Daniels, acting class, and, shocker, “The Little Mermaid”. I’ll have to tell you in person, because it’s just too funny.

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