So … since last writing here, feedback has flowed in with regards to the book – both from my editor and from some helpful (and age-appropriate) beta readers. The short version is that all of this feedback has been very positive, but the long version is just that little bit more interesting….
My editor, who edits both children’s and adult’s fiction, was first to deliver her analysis. I’ve always understood the value of hiring an editor, but having now worked directly with one on my own novel, I really understand the value of hiring an editor. It makes my mind boggle as to why anyone would think they don’t need one – and I say this as a journalist, sub-editor/editor, creative writer – you just need an outside professional to look at your work.
My book is still a bit long, so it definitely needs cutting some more, but this is where the elements of interest begin because, believe it or not, the passages my editor is suggesting could be chopped, are the very same ones my beta readers LOVE.
So, here we have a conundrum. I was reading my editorial report and agreeing with what my editor was saying. Some scenes possibly didn’t move the story along and could be cut (I’ll admit to having indulged myself in some lovely flowery descriptions throughout!), and although I really liked those scenes, I was prepared to axe them. (I don’t mind so much about ‘killing my darlings’, as Stephen King would say. 🙂 )
THEN, I met my beta readers, and was quizzing them on what they thought of the story. Did they have any favourite scenes? Did they think any were too long or boring? Their feedback would have been music to my ears up until a few days ago, but hearing how much they loved one rather descriptive scene in particular (which my editor said should definitely go), made alarm bells ring. Do I go with what the readers are telling me, who are, after all, my target audience, or with the professional editor who, let’s face it, knows exactly what she’s talking about??
Granted, my beta readers are but currently two people reading the book and are not representative of the mass populous of children. Also, my editor has her opinion, which is not necessarily the same opinion that another editor may have.
My own thoughts? Well, I want my book to read as well as it can, but I do also love those descriptive scenes myself, and I want to keep my readers happy… (assuming I get any more of them, that is!!). I suggested to the girls that I might be cutting some scenes, including the one they really like, and they looked positively aghast. One in particular was adamant I shouldn’t cut it, as it was her favourite so far. Oh, the irony….
I’ve got a very early start to Dublin tomorrow to meet my editor, so our morning coffee will no doubt include some interesting discussion, as I’m keen to hear her reaction to all this. It certainly threw me, but then, all I was wanting to hear from my betas was that they liked the book – I really hadn’t considered the implications if what they fed back differed vastly from what the editor said.
That ‘small’ dilemma aside … my editor has pointed out more than a few things which I now need to address within my manuscript and this is why I’m so glad I hired her. Despite leaving the book to rest for the past two years, I nevertheless still know the story far too well. I’ve also changed it around quite a bit in various edits since I started writing, and while I thought I’d tied up all those loose ends that referred back to stuff that was no longer in the text, it turns out, some of them slipped through the net.
Interestingly, my first few drafts also included a bit more back story, which I later cut out (for fear of stalling the story). Feedback from my editor however, suggests that some of this information needs re-introduced.
It’s great to get both a child’s and an adult’s perspective on the story though, as some things the editor is pointing out – such as my main character at times seeming to escape rather easily from certain situations – aren’t registering with the betas at all. They told me they thought the main character found herself in challenging situations and that it wasn’t too easy for her to escape them!
Obviously, an adult – and an editor to boot – will be reading the text more closely than a child who trusts you and just wants to get on with the story, but it’s interesting nonetheless to get these insights. I’m definitely taking on board all my editor has said and do think I need to tighten things up and make various changes. The great thing now however, is that with her feedback on particular points in the book, I now have a much clearer idea of what I need to focus on and why. The mist has lifted….
I’m also delighted that she thinks my writing is very strong and the pace of narrative is very good – though tension could be increased in some places. All of this information is ultimately helping me to create a better book.
As for my betas, well, I met them at the halfway point of reading – they’ve had exams and starting a new school to contend with recently – but I’m extremely heartened that they simply like the story so far. AND – they’re keen to keep reading it to the end and will let me know what they think of that.
They like the main character and identify with her. They think the story is ‘very creative’, ‘exciting’ and ‘mysterious’, and said it reminds them of Enid Blyton (not the same, they reassured me – but similar with regards to all the magical characters and going to strange places. I like this reference, as Enid Blyton was my favourite author growing up!)
They also said the chapters ended with cliff-hangers and made them want to read on. Oh, and let’s not forget – they like those flowery descriptions….
I may just have hit it lucky with these betas. Others of the same age may not like the descriptions, but it’s definitely food for thought. They’re also both 11 years old and have just started secondary school, so it’s great they like the book and think it’s ok for their age-group and isn’t too childish. My editor also thankfully agrees the writing style is age-appropriate. (It’s pitched at 8-11/12 year-olds).
I’ve already started making lots of fresh notes on the changes I want to make and the things I need to work on, but it’s exciting. I’m in the final stages of getting my book to a publishable format and Christmas will most definitely be filled with rewriting….
Of course, there’s a lot more to come after that, in terms of formatting etc. etc., but we’ll deal with all that when we come to it. In the meantime, the cover is almost signed off (that pesky blurb is nearly pinned down) and it all seems to be coming together….