These Two Sources of Help Strangely Compliment Each Other

Hello to all the Story Empire readers! Happy Monday and thanks for stopping by the blog today. A few weeks back I wrote about obtaining help from some alpha/beta readers regarding one of my WIPS. Two of these readers were Story Empire’s own Staci Troilo and Craig Boyack who read the first part of a rough draft and provided feedback. But it’s these thoughtful responses and the ridiculous reactions from my family that complimented each other as a “secret sauce” when I needed it.

First of all, I was surprised at the speed of responses and I’m thankful for the helpful insights. Both Staci and Craig came up with some incredibly useful ideas. Staci pointed out, among many other things a number of development and style issues. Craig came up with his own list of helpful ideas and similar style issues.

The book is still in the early stages of development editing but these responses are very helpful so I now know where to address weaknesses in the story. One thing was certainly clear: I need to work on more world-building. This is an issue of which I am well aware since I never really spent the time on it as I pushed the rough draft to its end. But it’s now a major hurdle in the editing which must be addressed.

I was also made aware of a variety of points in the opening that were weak and need development. These problems frequently can be addressed with world-building and a deeper dive into character development. Based on the feedback, I’ve also gotten some good ideas about making the two main characters a better team and inserting some points to emphasize their background. I also have a better idea of what needs to be shown as soon as possible before I let the rest of the world and character details unroll with the story.

The responses underscored that this particular book (and the subsequent series) is an ambitious undertaking. One of the points which Craig highlighted was that a specific couple of characters were similar to those in other books and I need to be careful to insert some originality. The suggestion had me thinking for several days.

Still in a quandary about some of the advice, I brought up a number of the points with my wife and daughter who have also read the much of the book. My daughter is particularly invested in the main character and some of the advice I received provoked a visceral reaction from her. The reactions started a discussion around the table so I decided to take it further.

Once the main point was confirmed by my daughter, I threw out a little topic of what I should do with a character that Craig had specifically mentioned. The question was how to change this character into a more original presence. My little audience began brainstorming with me, especially my daughter who is quite the book-worm and represents part of my target audience – college students.

My daughter launched in a a stream of ridiculous suggestions and I just let her go, laughing at how far afield she went. She made a variety of jokes and the group brain-storming ran on for about thirty minutes. Finally, my daughter mentioned one word and I had the essence of the character that was needed. From there, I’ve been able to round out the character who had been quite flat until that point. Now this character will add some spice and mystery to the setting for the two main characters.

The point here is that the alpha/beta readers had suggestions. I threw them out to other invested alpha readers who engaged in some humorous dialog that ended up nailing down the basics for a character that I had not considered as more than an after-thought. The thoughtful (criticism from Staci and Craig) and the ridiculous (the kitchen table reactions) combined to flesh out a side character who can have a definite affect on the setting and plot of the book. Sometimes you need both kinds of input to move progress along.

I have much more to work on but this is one example of how a complex and ambitious undertaking may need a variety of input to distill a well-developed set of characters, plot and setting into a well-developed book. How do you obtain input for your writing? Do you throw crazy ideas against the wall to see what sticks? What other methods do you use with development of your books? Leave your thoughts and answers in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

P.H. Solomon

27 thoughts on “These Two Sources of Help Strangely Compliment Each Other

  1. Like Mae, I share chapters (or several chapters at once) with my critique partners. It helps to know what is and isn’t working before I get too far in the book. I also have a co-worker who beta reads as I write. Just today I shared something I wrote last night but wasn’t comfortable with how it would take the story. He made a small suggestion and I knew I had the fix. Great post, P. H.

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  2. Pingback: Walking Trails, Birthdays, and The Week in Review – Joan Hall

  3. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  4. I share chapters as I write them with my critique partners. That way if something (or someone) isn’t working, I catch the problem right away before I’ve expanded or completed the book. I’ve done that for most of my writing life and it really works for me.

    The brainstorming session sounds like a lot of fun. 🙂

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  5. Honest feedback from other writers is invaluable and your story here today is a perfect example of how it works. Thanks so much for sharing and best of luck with the new work!

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  6. I belong to a writers’ group. We’ve known each other for years and I respect their feedback. I always like to read the first few chapers of any book I start to them. Their reactions let me know if I’m heading in the right direction–and they each come at books from different perspectives. Kathy zeroes in on emotional impact and reactions, Rachel loves nuances and word choice, Mary Lou notices passive voice, hooks, and pacing. They all nail me for not using enough senses–smells, feeling, etc. And then I send my pages to my daughter and she tells me when I’m being lazy or my characters don’t interest her or ring true. Once I slide by them, I go for it until I hand off my finished draft to my critique partners. Then it’s red ink time again:) I really enjoyed hearing your process. Posted on my author Facebook page. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. I’m so glad you found my feedback helpful, P. H. I think you have a really strong, really engaging series on your hands. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

    You’re right about soliciting suggestions. Helpful feedback can come in a variety of ways from a variety of sources. Even one word (as you saw) can make all the difference. Best wishes!

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