The search for people who aren't capable of lying(this post originally appeared at https://michelekeller.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/meaningful-feedback/)
“OMG your book’s amazing.”
“It should be a movie.”
“I can’t believe you could come up with all that.”
Meaningful feedback an illusive thing. To any writer, it is the most precious substance in the universe. Something we are all in constant search for. I’ve sent my book out to lots of people, and it mostly receives one of the three aforementioned responses. Let’s see how that plays out in my query letter.
I’d like you to consider my super-awesome book. How do I know it’s super-awesome? My mommy told me.
But really, friends aren't any better. Even when I give them specific things to look for it's still all sunshine and roses.
Me: So did you see anything that didn’t make sense logically?
Her: No, You shouldn’t change anything. It’s perfect.
Me: Well, I know it isn’t perfect. I just reread [scene] and noticed my MC who was practically crippled in the previous scene can now suddenly walk.
Her: Oh, I did notice that.
In attempt to combat this problem, I turned to the omnipotent internet and found a writing buddy. She's a self-pub with some sales, so she's light-years ahead of me. She was working on something new and wanted someone to take a look. Sounded perfect. We traded.
I sent hers through the shredder, whirled the scraps in the vitamix, and returned to her an oozy goo infused with possibility. I picked all the bits that needed more/ less explanation. I found places where she could raise the stakes. Places where I felt let down. Places that made absolutely no sense what-so-ever. Who I cheered for and why. 200 notes in 40,000 word MS. My swap buddy was ecstatic.
I got a “Pretty good, but kinda wordy,” framed in tactful diplomacy.
This process has repeated itself several times with several critique partners. And it doesn't seem to matter who I swap with. Casual acquaintances or random strangers, the results are almost always the same.
So the search continues.
This past week I entered another twitter pitch contest, and again I was met by a group of supporting fellow writers ready to cheerlead each other across the finish line. I did make some new friends, and the contest was fun, but ultimately didn't get me any closer to my goal. Every comment in my feed was a glowing "I love it!" Yet despite all this praise, I wasn't picked. Now everyone will say that it's all subjective, and luck, etc., but this isn't my first contest, and I've certainly sent out a plenty of query letters. None received so much as a request for a partial. Friends can insist as much as they like, but the truth becomes more difficult to deny. While everyone enjoys a little ego boost, it isn't what I need, and it really doesn't help. The total lack of interest in my MS seems to indicate that it's time to move on to something else.
I have a few ideas for something new, so I'm going to table the epic stuff for a while.
Maybe I will find something that clicks with readers. Something that inspires a more elaborate response than "I love it!" from friends or, at the very least, something more than silence from agents.
It's the silence that gets me. Unfortunately, total silence might be the most meaningful feedback I'm going to get.
Bio: Michele is a former music teacher, turned stay-at-home-mom, turned writer. She blogs about family-friendly travel, health and wellness, and the adventure known as parenting. Her personal blog focuses on writing advice, book reviews, and her drunken stumblings to the editor’s desk.
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