Who would have thought that nearly a year from the day I started writing my WIP that I would be giving it to people to actually read! It’s a bit surreal to hand my little monster to friends and family members of various ages, races and genders and say to them”Let me know what you think.”
My WIP is kinda hefty (page number wise) so I wasn’t expecting to hear back for a while. I tried (kind of) to put it to the back of my mind and turn my attention to other WIPs that I had started, competitions to enter, looming submission deadlines – my 9 to 5… you know, life.
Well…that worked for about a minute. Then the first call came. Someone was ready to talk about it.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m a grown up. Whatever they have to say, I can take it!”
We met at a pub we often go to for dinner and we had a chat. To hear from one of my close friends what she thought of my WIP was truly eye opening. And while I may have lost my appetite during our discussion, it was a great lesson in how to handle constructive criticism. She told me what worked for her and what didn’t and where she thought there was room for improvement. It was a good chat and it gave me a lot to think about.
Reflecting back on my first beta-reader feedback session, there were a couple of lessons to be learned, but the one that stuck out for me the most was to really listen. It was hard to sit there and not try to counter any negative (or perceived negative – I may be a little sensitive…this is my baby we’re talking about) point with an argument or justification. I had to remember that this was not a thesis I had to defend. It was a book that I gave to someone who reads books and people are going to approach my writing with the wealth of knowledge and experience that they have and it is through that lens that they will interpret my work. And at the end of the day, not everything is for everyone.
It took a moment or two to come to that mature perspective, but it helped when it was time for the next feedback conversation. And much to Random’s dismay, there were no leftovers. I might be getting a little bit better at this feedback thing, and Random may soon have to learn to cook.
What I am finding that I really love about the feedback portion of this journey is listening to the varying perspectives people have of the work. You learn a lot about people when you sit down and listen to the things that stand out for them from a show or movie they watched, or a book or article they read. And the things that stand out for one person may not be something that even registered for another and vice versa. We humans are fascinating creatures.
I love listening to how my words are interpreted through various lenses and I am making my notes and amendments where necessary.
I sincerely thank everyone who has taken the time to review my work and to sit down with me to discuss it. Your input has been enriching, enlightening and humbling.
I am very glad not to have to travel this road alone. I may even get a little better at this writing thing along the way.