Time to write has been precious lately, so when I recently needed to write an assignment for Dean and JMS and needed a chapter for both writers groups I participate in, I decided to neatly batch all the requirements into one short chapter and just do my best to accommodate everyone.
The result was the first chapter of my Chef Station Murder (to replace the previous first chapter). I read it to my husband who said that it was fine and that he didn’t think that Dean would have a problem with it. So off it went to Dean, to the Romance group, and to the SFF group.
Dean was the first to respond and he said, “As for your opening, it worked great. I got no issue at all other than the few fake details to start off with. Otherwise pretty good depth, good character. Write the story.”
This is high praise from Dean. The shorter his comments, the more he likes it. The best comment of all is, “No issues. Send it out.” It took me some time to adjust to this, but I now appreciate it. There is a simplicity to this kind of feedback and it doesn’t leave anything for me to hang my insecurities on.
The next to respond was my romance group (though just one of them this time). She gave me good feedback, said very nice things about my prose, and made a few recommendations to improve the protagonist. (I am not directly quoting her or anyone from the SFF group to protect their privacy. They didn’t give me their comments with the knowledge that they would be public. Also, I get very detailed critiques from both groups and it would be difficult to summarize here.) After she gave me her comments, I submitted it to JMS with virtually no changes.
The next to respond was my SFF critique group and here I received critical comments along with praise for the prose itself. In general, they had concerns about the level of conflict. I also received some very valuable feedback on the technicalities of low gravity and space stations, which is one thing that is just incredible to know that I can get from one of the people in this writing group. There were also a variety of reactions that are not easy to summarize.
Despite kind words from everyone, I worried about JMS’ reaction, since this seems to me to be the very, very big league. I wasn’t even sure I had understood the concept he was teaching well enough, which was ‘digressions.’ I kept asking Steve and one of the Romance group members, “Is it a digression? I think it is. But maybe?” I was the first in that group to turn in my assignment and I fretted about that as well. Did it make me look unserious? Should I rewrite it? But there wasn’t time. This has been a packed two weeks.
JMS responded last night. He said, “Nicely done, very well written. It tends to stay on the same topic so it’s more a distraction than a digression, which comes at a right angle, but happy to swap that goal for the larger piece which is, again, really good. Thanks.”
I nearly fainted dead away, overcome with joy. Steve told me that I had now had validation for my writing from all corners and that it was time to stop being insecure about it. Just do the work and move forward.
I guess that is what I need to do. Oh, and learn how to do digressions.
I found it interesting to see where opinion converged and where it was different. In general, my SFF group nearly always wants more obvious tension or conflict closer to the beginning of the story. My Romance group often wants to see more development of the protagonist’s character. To some extent these things align. More development of the protagonist and what he wants would also create a bit more tension and conflict. Everyone seems comfortable with my prose, even JMS. Dean thinks that I should finish things and send them out. Well, yes. That makes sense doesn’t it?
Thanks for reading through this. I know this was a somewhat self-indulgent post and I appreciate your time and attention if you got through to this point. I am fascinated by the manifold reader reactions and how they mesh with my own perspective as well.
Be well, friends!